Yesterday, NCAA placed further restrictions on football recruiting by eliminating several loopholes that have allowed schools to sign more players than allowed under the letter of the rules. However, the Association will allow walk-ons to be exempt from the new 25 scholarship annual signing rule if the student-athlete has been on campus for two years before receiving a grant-in-aid. The exemption fits Georgia’s HOPE funded, preferred walk-on program for in-state athletes perfectly.
Since his arrival at UGA, Kirby Smart has taken advantage of the State’s HOPE scholarship to emphasize the preferred walk-on program. The program guarantees an athlete a roster spot and allows him to participate in fall camp, as well as get the advantage of the team’s training table meals and snacks. The student-athlete gets to develop his skills at a major program with the opportunity to earn a full scholarship through his efforts.
A number of players have taken UGA up on preferred walk-on offers, either directly from high school or as transfers from smaller schools. The NCAA exemption for these players will allow Coach Smart to continue to recruit players with development potential to grow. One might think that a player deemed not good enough for major college football out of high school is just a waste of time and resources but think again. Offensive linemen typically require maturity and training to reach the top levels of the position. Many linemen simply are not ready before their third, fourth or even fifth year of development. However, if they can be nurtured in the program without turning away a more advanced player, it’s a win for UGA and the student-athlete.