So far, the University of Georgia coaching staff has little to complain about in regard to how recruiting has gone in the 2013 cycle. With nine commitments to date, the Bulldogs are ahead of last year’s pace by more than four months, and with six of those commits appearing on the ESPNU 150 Watch List, there is quality as well as quantity on board. But one position that has yet to yield an addition might also be the biggest need for this class: offensive lineman.
One of the Bulldogs' top O-line targets was in town Saturday for his second visit this month, and some players and coaches in Athens hoped he would decide to make March 24 even more special for him than it already is.
“They all told me happy birthday and put a little pressure on me, but not too much,” Josh Cardiello (Buford, Ga./Buford) said. “Shaq Wiggins was telling me to commit on my birthday so that would be my birthday present to myself.”
While Cardiello did not commit, the 6-foot-3, 285-pound interior lineman did see a lot that he liked while on campus, including watching the Bulldogs practice.
“The visit was really good,” Cardiello said. “I got to sit around the meetings and see what Coach [Will] Friend was like and how he interacted with players. I also got to see how they practice and what the intensity was like. They really got after it, so that was good. I talked to Kolton [Houston] after practice for a half-hour before I had to go home for my birthday. I am going to go up there again and stay overnight in a couple weeks.”
Several prospects also in town had live updates on Twitter during the heated practice, reporting several scuffles between players. One witness said linebacker Alec Ogletree executed a wrestling takedown maneuver on running back Isaiah Crowell.
“Isaiah ran out of bounds on one play and I think Alec said something to him and one thing led to another,” Cardiello said. “It shows how competitive they are and how much they want to win this year. It was intense and there were a couple fights, so it was pretty funny to see them fight and then go back like nothing happened.”
While earning another trip to the SEC championship game is obviously a motivating factor for the Bulldogs, the team also has plenty of daily motivation during practice.
“Whichever side of the ball loses the most has to run after practice, and on Saturday the offense had to run,” Cardiello said.
Last year, Georgia hired Friend, a former graduate assistant, after Stacy Searels left for a position at Texas. And having two former Buford teammates who are now Bulldogs -- Dallas Lee and Kolton Houston -- has helped Cardiello gain a solid perspective on the transition so far with Friend.
“Coach Searels was more ‘get after you' all of the time, and Coach Friend will get after you as well, but he will teach you at the same time and try to help you,” Cardiello said. “He is really laid back in meetings, but on the field he can really get after it and help you get better. Kolton, Dallas and Austin all say positive things about him.”
Cardiello, who also holds offers from Florida, FSU, South Carolina and North Carolina, actually spent almost a decade of his life in Florida. For that reason, his family is somewhat divided as far as college programs go.
“My mom went to Florida State and her whole side of the family are Seminole fans,” Cardiello said. “They try not to push me toward them, but my grandfather, who is a die-hard FSU fan, came to Florida and he was really impressed. They know that those are two awesome programs that I could go to either way. My dad loves Georgia, and I tell my mom about them all of the time. UGA is not fighting an uphill battle at all. Georgia and Florida are recruiting me the hardest, with FSU a close second.”
At the moment, Cardiello said Florida, FSU and Georgia are somewhat even. He plans on visiting FSU this weekend, and Florida the following weekend. Then he will sit down and try to whittle down his list.
“I think I will have a pretty good idea of where the schools stand after I get back,” Cardiello said. “There are other schools I want to look at, but I think after that I will narrow things down a bit.”