- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- At a school like Aquinas -- a small Catholic high school in Augusta, Ga., with a total enrollment that hovers around 250 -- having a football player show up on major college programs’ radars is abnormal.
“It’s very, very uncommon,” Fightin’ Irish coach Matt LeZotte said. “We typically have a decent number of guys that walk on at the 1-AA level or Division II level, but very rare that we have a scholarship player, especially a scholarship to an SEC school.”
But Brendan Douglas is already an uncommon prospect.
As a member of a big, football-oriented family -- his dad Pat was the only senior on legendary coach Erk Russell’s first team at Georgia Southern and later coached under Russell at GSU, and his brother John played at Auburn and Georgia Southern.
For one thing, the Georgia signee looks like a fullback -- ESPN rated him as a three-star prospect and the nation’s No. 4 fullback in its 2013 player rankings -- but he possesses both the power to play fullback and the speed and shiftiness to play tailback. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said last week that the Bulldogs’ coaching staff plans to start him off as a tailback once he reports to campus next month, and that he will likely contribute as a true freshman.
“When you put the ball in his hands, a lot of the initial impressions, he looks like a thick guy. And you know the types of stereotypes of what’s a tailback and what’s a fullback,” LeZotte said. “But if you put the ball in his hands, all those stereotypes are thrown out the window because of his ability to make plays.”
But that is not to say that Douglas lacks the ability to dominate as a blocking back. LeZotte recalled a game against Athens Academy where a Spartans linebacker laid the wood to his star running back -- and how the coach let his pupil know about it on the sideline. What followed was one of the more memorable plays of Douglas’ high school career.
“I got in his ear and talked about how hard that guy hit him,” LeZotte said. “I saw his eyes flip to where there was a little fire in his eyes and I thought, ‘OK, it’s on now.’ We ran a toss sweep to one of our other backs with him as a lead blocker and he absolutely smoked the guy that hit him, knocked him in the air about five yards and then continued on and laid two more guys out as a blocker.
“I’ll tell you, that was one that shook the state right there. I think everyone on the Single-A level knew who he was after that one play.”
Douglas was one of the last players to join Georgia’s recruiting class, switching his commitment from Georgia Tech to the Bulldogs once a spot at UGA became available just before signing day. He was one of the least heralded prospects in the Bulldogs’ signing class, but Douglas’ high school coach said that will not affect his former player.
Douglas and fellow freshman A.J. Turman will enter the competition in a depth-deprived backfield behind sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall this preseason, and LeZotte believes Douglas has the tools to make an instant impact.
“He’s going to show up and be one of the strongest guys on the team physically. He’s going to be up there in speed -- he can fly -- but his grit and determination, he will not fail,” LeZotte said. “When he runs the ball, he does not fail. He’ll run over you, he’ll run around you, he’ll do whatever it takes to get that extra yard.
“And a lot of guys don’t have that ability to just fight through adversity. He just doesn’t see adversity. He just goes.”