More Than a Second Hand Emotion

Why does Georgia stand a chance to sway Reuben Foster? It's a matter of the heart.

ATHENS – High school recruits backing out on a verbal commitment to a school is no longer an exception to the rule.

It seemingly happens all the time, and while it feels devastating to one fan base in the moment – the general sentiment returns to normal quite quickly as other recruits come and go and sometimes come and go again.

Georgia felt the loss of verbal pledges this past month, when both Derrick Henry and Kyrin Priester opted to de-commit for one reason or another.

Now talk of a potential switch of a different kind – that of Alabama verbal Reuben Foster – has the Bulldog Nation buzzing. The nation's No. 1 linebacker in the 2013 class, Foster would be a boost to Georgia's class and is arguably the No. 1 player left on the Bulldogs' board in the current cycle (rivaled only by elite offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil).

But how real is this would-be change? Could it actually happen? And why is Foster contemplating this massive revision to his future path?

First things first – Foster isn't unhappy with Alabama. It's not like he's dreading the thought of playing three years in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide coaching staff continues to do a fine job recruiting him, and Foster continues to rave about all things Alabama.

Foster's mind – like other heralded recruits who choose to play for the Crimson Tide – is fixed first on two important factors: winning at the college level and placing himself in a good position to be a high draft pick for the NFL.

No one can dispute Alabama's prominence in these two areas, especially for a defensive player.

The Crimson Tide have won two of the last three national titles and have had 20 players taken in the NFL Draft in that span, 13 of which were defensive players.

So there are some damn good reasons to go to Alabama. Throw in that Foster is originally from the Yellowhammer State (Leeds) and currently resides there (Auburn), and there's a good batch of mounting reasons for him to end up playing for the Tide.

So, why is he still entertaining the thought of playing for the Bulldogs? When it comes to recruiting, and various other things in this life, one important muscle in the body can trump the brain.

The heart.

Surely Foster has love for Alabama. But Georgia is deeply rooted in Foster's internal makeup, too. While it's impossible to prove, it's not out of the question to say that Foster loves Georgia more than Alabama.

Here's why, in the order of perceived factors contributing to this fondness.

3. Foster has a close relationship with every Georgia assistant coach. Or so it seems. During his visit to Athens for the Mark Richt Camp, Foster was courted and spent time with essentially every person associated with Georgia football. Oh, you coach offense at Georgia? That doesn't matter when it comes to recruiting Foster. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo welcomed Foster to the Woodruff practice fields with a smile and long chat two weeks ago. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon put in a great deal of time and effort, too.

From the outside looking in, tight ends coach John Lilly has as good a relationship with Foster as any defensive coach on the staff. Those two joked around most of the day and at one point Lilly even put Foster in a playful headlock, which speaks to the comfortable nature between the two.

Georgia is bombarding Foster with every personality on staff. And he's responding to the attention with positive signals.

2. Foster is extremely close with many of Georgia's current verbal commitments and potential recruits. Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews are two of Foster's best friends, and they've been working to pull him to Georgia for some time. Enhancing this effect is the fact that all three play defense and want to play together in college.

Running back Alvin Kamara is a member of this tight circle. Both Alabama and Georgia are recruiting him, with his relationship with Foster only intensifying the importance for both schools to land him.

Package deals are the political promises of the recruiting world – often trumpeted, rarely fulfilled. But something feels different about Foster and his friends.

Wiggins is the most outspoken of the group, but ultimately it's Foster's friendship with Matthews that could sway him. Nobody was more upset when Foster committed to Alabama than the safety from Newnan.

"I was just like, ‘Man you should have waited,' " Matthews said. "We could have actually signed together because that's what we wanted to do. We told the world, we did an interview and said we were both going to the same school regardless. You never know what happens.

"I just tell him how if he comes to Georgia he'll be No. 1 from the start. He'll come in and start. Everybody knows how physical and big he is. He's the size of a linebacker in college right now. He already knows how UGA is and how the coaching staff is and how the fans are. He loves it down there too. I just keep feeding it to him."

So Matthews, among others, is feeding. And Foster, apparently, is eating it up.

1. Foster values his relationship with Mark Richt more than any other coach recruiting him. That's because Richt's approach feels real to Foster. The two spent a considerable amount of time together during Foster's visit to Athens two weeks ago.

"Talking with him was amazing like it always is," Foster said. "We did not talk any football at all. We talked about life in general, role models, father figures, life after football and things like that. It was great, and I enjoyed talking to him. We just had fun and I learned a lot from him.

"Coach Richt is a good Christian man. He is very truthful. He is honest, and he is caring. He is full of good wisdom, and I took in as much as I could. Some coaches are all about football, but he is not. He is a good coach, but he is more than that. He can make me better all around, and I like that."

The sum of all this has Foster torn (to what degree is unknown) about where to play college football.

But the interest in Georgia is more than only a matter of the heart. Mark Richt isn't merely playing Jimmy Chitwood, giving Hickory High an outside chance in Hoosiers and hoping an upset by the underdog is in the works.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is working Foster's football mind, just as he did with Jordan Jenkins in last year's class. Grantham's recruiting approach has been upfront and honest. He goes over film with recruits, pointing out how the player could be used and where improvements must be made. There isn't much flash involved – Grantham lets his knowledge and NFL experience speak for itself. The pitch has worked well, and he's using it on Foster.

Is this enough to pry Foster from Alabama? That remains to be seen. Surely Foster has a close bond with Kirby Smart and the assistants at Alabama. Surely he has friends currently committed to the Crimson Tide. And he, like everyone else, has to have Nick Saban at the top of the list of best college coaches.

But Georgia has a lot on its side. And Foster keeps coming back to Athens. That's the key – he keeps coming back. He keeps thinking about Georgia and allowing the affair to continue and progress.

Is it enough? Only time will tell.

Nobody with a brain can fault Foster for aligning himself with Alabama. But everybody with a heart can relate to his current predicament, too.

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