Dominant Georgia defensive tackle Derrick Brown is determined to find the right fit for his football future, and that search will extend deep into this recruiting cycle.
The 5-star Lanier High School senior still has four official visits left on the docket eight weeks shy of national signing day, setting the stage for a whirlwind final stretch. He confirmed plans to use those visits at Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee during a conversation with Bleacher Report.
A trip to Tuscaloosa is set for this weekend, while the other three campus stays are scheduled for January. The Crimson Tide welcome him to campus during an interesting phase of the recruiting cycle for head coach Nick Saban.
Alabama, in the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive year, is in the process of continued coaching staff changes. The program perennially sees assistants poached by other universities, and now it's longtime defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's turn to take on a new challenge.
Smart was introduced as Georgia's head coach Monday, though he still plans to serve on Saban's staff through the postseason, according to Seth Emerson of DawgNation.com.
The implications of this move should continue to develop as things progress and Georgia finalizes plans for a new regime. Brown, a longtime target of former Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt, understands there are questions he'll need answered after the leadership change.
“It’s definitely going to be something new at Georgia. I think I’ll make my final thought about the situation when I go up for my official visit in January," Brown said.
While Smart will undoubtedly bring several new faces into the fold, key holdovers from Richt's tenure could prove valuable as Georgia pursues Brown. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is certainly an assistant to monitor moving forward, and his fate could prove pivotal here.
Brown does have some familiarity with Smart from his Alabama recruitment, but that relationship with the Crimson Tide was largely established elsewhere.
“Coach Smart recruited me just a little, but [defensive line coach Bo] Davis has been the head of my recruiting and he’s still there. That’s what I’ll hold onto at the end of the day," he said.
Brown, rated No. 8 overall in 2016 composite rankings, is also focused on how Alabama will handle its vacant defensive coordinator position. There's one particular possibility that piques his interest, though at this stage it's purely speculative.
“Rumor has it that [Georgia defensive coordinator] Jeremy Pruitt will be the new Alabama defensive coordinator," he said. "Coach Pruitt is never one that's lied to me. When I talked to him at Georgia he told me the only way he’d leave is if he had to or if a head coaching job was open. Coach Pruitt has kept it real with me."
When it comes to Will Muschamp's departure from Auburn, Brown opted not to comment. The former Florida head coach officially took over as South Carolina's new leader on Monday, leaving the Tigers looking for alternatives.
"I hate the fact that those kids have to go through a change again at defensive coordinator," Muschamp said at his introductory Gamecocks press conference, according to James Crepea of AL.com. "That's something that I certainly regret—that they've got to face that. It's very difficult."
It's another example of why Brown is working his way through the process at his own pace and letting pieces fall into place rather than rushing into a commitment he's not completely sold on. Brown aims to reach a resolution at least a few days prior to national signing day, before revealing his collegiate plans to the public.
From the standpoint of campus atmosphere, programs will be hard-pressed to top Tennessee. Brown has been blown away by the culture in Knoxville and expects more of the same when he returns next month.
“It is like no other place I’ve been to," he said. "You can feel it in Knoxville. They call it VFL—‘Vol for Life’—and at the end of the day, those people really are Volunteers. They’re not Georgia fans one week and Florida fans the next week. Those people are Volunteers.”
Brown, who previously spent an official visit at Mississippi State, is projected to sign with Georgia by 100 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Clearly, this recruitment isn't nearly that cut-and-dried.
The 6'4", 318-pound playmaker erupted for a career-best 106 tackles—42 for loss—as a senior, according to MaxPreps. He secured 19.5 sacks as an upperclassman, becoming the lone 2016 U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year finalist expected to spend his college career on defense.
Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.