Leonard Warner III is one of the most articulate and intelligent football players around. Easily.
His recruiting process isn’t the easiest to peg. His academic transcript has big biceps of its own. It allows him to consider schools like Duke, Georgia Tech, Northwestern and Stanford, among others. The nearly 6-foot-4 and 224-pound prospect was also invited to The Opening and more than held his own in coverage against some of the nation’s top slot receivers.
Warner also just happens to be a linebacker. The nation’s No. 7 inside linebacker for 2017, at that. He feels like he’s been made a priority by the coaches at Georgia. He plays at Brookwood High School and was also a visitor at the Kirby Smart Camp last weekend.
When it comes to Georgia, the decision at times can sound like a lay-up. That sets up the major question when it comes to his recruiting: Is the easy decision also going to be the best one for his future?
UGA could be the easy and the right decision. It also could be the easy decision and the right one might be another school with an even higher emphasis on academics which will enhance his life after football.
“That’s the exact same way I look at it,” Warner said. “It would definitely be easy for me to just commit to Georgia now. I could commit to Georgia and that would be the easiest thing ever. I wouldn’t feel bad about it and everybody would say ‘good decision’ but then moving on I have to make sure if I choose a school then that is where I want to be at for the next four years but that same school better also set me up for the next 40 years in the classroom.”
His options are Duke, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Stanford. He hopes to visit Stanford soon so he can properly evaluate that school. That will be a major factor in his choice.
“Georgia is so close to home and I already know people who are at school there and who graduated that came from my school there,” Warner said. “So it just makes a lot of sense for me to go there. But that’s not how I am going to make my decision. With the choices that I have, I know I can’t make a bad decision. I know with those schools I can’t make a bad decision, but that choice will answer the question of which decision is the better one or the best one for me.”
Warner does not plan to enroll early or be a silent commitment. He does feel some sense of urgency with his decision in order to make sure he doesn’t lose out on a linebacker spot at a desired school.
“I would like to make my decision before my senior season so I can focus on my team,” Warner said. “But if I don’t feel right about it then I won’t make my commitment just to make it.”
He was on the Alpha Pro 7-on-7 team earlier this month at the Opening. That squad was littered, smothered and covered with UGA commitments.
“The guys were all high on Georgia and their recruiting class with all their commitments but yet not in a cocky way,” Warner said. “They were excited for what is being built and the future of Georgia football for sure. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that just watching them and seeing how excited all those guys are? … You can see it in all their eyes how excited they are about Georgia even when they are not committed. You could already see how they feel about Georgia and how much they want to play there.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumman are both recruiting him. He posted a 4.7 laser time in the 40-yard dash and then bounded to a 34-inch vertical leap. His 4.12 effort in the shuttle run fueled a 117.75 SPARQ rating, which wound up as the fifth-best score among the nation’s elite linebacker prospects at The Opening.
That’s the type of athleticism, length and overall size that Georgia will very likely wait on before accepting multiple commitments at linebacker prior to his decision.
He said that Georgia is recruiting him the hardest followed by Georgia Tech. Warner hears from the Bulldogs every day.
Warner’s father is an educator. Academics were stressed in his household.
“I even told him that if he decided that he didn’t want to play football anymore to just go ahead and make that call,” his father Leonard Warner Jr. said last summer. “He can make that call. He would be fine. We would be fine. Leonard can go to college without football.”
But Warner will not be consider that option.
“He told me he really likes playing football,” his father said. “But I want him to make sure he knows about all his options. He’s not going to have any Daddy issues with me wanting him to go play football for the big school. I’m not living through him at all. We’re just going to look at his choices and narrow it down. He’s going to make that call and we’re going to support him 100 percent in whatever he does.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.