ATHENS, Ga. – This was so unprecedented that even Georgia coach Mark Richt wasn’t sure what to do when the question came his way Tuesday.
WR Josh Malone signing a financial aid agreement with multiple schools means those schools can now comment on him publicly.
“I want to get it straight,” Richt said, “because if you put some stickers on an envelope you’re in trouble. I’m serious. I’m like gun shy about all that. I’d really like to call compliance to make sure I’m allowed.”
But yes, Richt was told he could according to NCAA rules now speak publicly about receiver Josh Malone, an uncommitted high school prospect who plans to enroll early at a school that is yet to be determined.
The reason is that Malone has signed a financial aid agreement with UGA (and other schools). Per recently clarified rules by the NCAA, this allows additional contact by coaching staffs with the player and public comments about him as well.
And just like that, recruiting -- at least in a small form -- has entered the public sector for coaching staffs.
For years, coaches have been unable per NCAA rules to publicize a recruit yet to enroll or sign a letter of intent. But for the first time, Richt was able Tuesday to legally comment publicly on a prospect that Georgia is actively recruiting against other schools.
So he did.
“I think the guy is a dynamic player. I really do,” Richt said on Malone. “I think he’s a guy that could come in as a freshman and make a difference, especially if he comes in at the mid-year, which I think is his plan for wherever he goes. I think the guy, with the knowledge that he would gain in the spring and through the summer and have a guy like Chris Conley to mentor him, he could take advantage of his skill sets, which I think are outstanding. Great speed, great height, snatches the ball well. He’s a very sharp kid, great family. We’d love to have him here.”
Along these same lines, Richt was also asked about quarterback Jacob Park, a quarterback who is committed to Georgia and plans to enroll next semester and has also signed a financial aid agreement with the Bulldogs.
Richt says Jacob Park is "an outstanding passer."
“He's coming in at mid-year. He had his official visit this weekend,” Richt said of Park. “One of the days relatively early in December we’ll make a home visit. He’s got a couple of all-star games to go to, and then he’s coming right to campus, getting ready to go.”
What did Georgia like about Park?
“We want guys that are really good passers,” Richt said. “I mean, he’s an outstanding passer. We think he’s a very sharp, very good decision-maker. We’ll find out about how he handles pressure once he gets here. But he’s got the tools that we’ve looked for over the years to have a guy that we think can be successful. We’ve been blessed with good quarterbacks over the years.”
Richt says he does expect more of the financial aid agreements to be signed in the future, but he also believes jury may still be out on the process.
“I don’t know what has to happen for everybody to say, ‘OK, he’s a mid-year guy,’ because he’s got to be a mid-year guy. But if he signs it and he doesn’t go mid-year, what does that mean? I don’t know,” Richt said. “My guess is everybody is going to try to get those guys to sign them whether they’re mid-year or not so they can have more communication with them. They can text them. They can talk about them. They can do all these things. So I think what is going to be the important thing is that everybody who is signing these things are legitimately attempting and have a very good chance of being a mid-year enrollee.”
Park (and possibly Malone) is the only prospect UGA is expecting to enroll early this spring, but last year featured more than a dozen early enrollees.
“It would have been a zoo,” Richt said. “The amount of freedom we would have, including going to see them, I don’t know if we could have managed all that. I don’t know if we could have got to that many guys and still coached the season without it getting chaotic.”
Richt added about the process, “I don’t know if doing this is wise or not. I think time will tell. There may be, I don’t know if I’d call it abuse, but there will be some people taking full advantage of it. We’ll see if it’s enough to say, ‘Hey, maybe this wasn’t a good idea.’ I think the jury is still out on this one.”
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