Kirby Smart’s family connection gives UGA ‘a real shot’ with a 5-star FSU legacy

Samuels is the nation's No. 4 cornerback prospect for 2017.

There’s a name in the mix for UGA’s 2017 class that we haven’t heard a lot from yet.

Well, aside from UGA commit and uber-recruiter Richard LeCounte III. LeCounte always ranks four-star cornerback Stanford Samuels III in the “gotta have” category.

Samuels already has received his invitation to Nike’s “The Opening” in July. The prototype cornerback rates as the nation’s No. 4 player at his position and the No. 27 overall prospect in his signing class.

Samuels has a family connection to UGA head coach Kirby Smart. (Student Sports)

The son of the Florida State standout of the same name is very interested in UGA. He took a recent visit and was intrigued by a “different and new” program.

“You can just tell that coaching switch totally changed the entire atmosphere around that program,” he said. “Everybody’s attitude and demeanor is being carried differently.”

The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder hasn’t reached the point of naming leaders or discussing which schools might get his official visits. Samuels (Charles W. Flanagan/Pembroke Pines, Fla.) says those will be huge, but also noted his two recent visits to Florida State were the best of his recruitment so far.

That’s not encouraging for UGA’s chances considering he plays high school ball in Florida, is an FSU legacy and is already vibing well with what he’s seen in Tallahassee.

And yet here’s something that might. His father Stanford Samuels Jr. told DawgNation on Tuesday he feels UGA has a real shot with his son. Why? He knows Kirby Smart well going back to the days when Smart was a graduate assistant at FSU in 2002 and 2003. Smart coached his father during his time there.

Those two haven’t let the dust settle on that relationship.

“My dad knows Coach Smart pretty well actually,” Samuels said. “Those two are close. That has helped me and Coach Smart build into our good relationship. Coach Smart has been known me since I was real little because my dad was always carrying me around.”

What was Smart’s pitch given that connection?

“Coach Smart said he’s not going to spend too much time praising me because we have that relationship already,” he said. “He loves how I play and knows I can ball. He said I pretty much don’t have a choice considering the dad I have. He was telling me to make sure I give them a shot and pay attention to everything and take it all in.”

The five-star prospect has visited UGA and Florida State this spring. He expects to return to Florida State for its spring game and plans a lot of summer trips. The junior wasn’t sure which schools would get additional visits, but already knew he’d be back at UGA this summer.

Samuels visited Athens two weeks ago on his spring break. UGA defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and receivers coach James Coley are his primary recruiters.

“I loved the intensity of that practice,” he said. “You could tell the differences with these new coaches. Coach Smart is implementing some fight into those guys. It just looked like the coaches and players loved the game and were having fun and practicing with a champion’s intensity to get better. Georgia was not out there going through motions. Those players were getting taught some things and getting better. I thought Georgia was looking pretty good.”

What is he looking for?

“I am looking for the place that gives me those chills,” Samuels said. “When you find the right place that school is going to let you know by giving you that feeling while you are there. There’s no other feeling like that.”

Samuels plans to make his college decision sometime this summer. (Student Sports)

Samuels said he hasn’t gotten that feeling yet.

The legacy question is one he’s used to. It bears mentioning that his former head coach at Flanagan High School just went to Michigan to be an analyst on Jim Harbaugh’s staff. Former FSU standout Devin Bush, Sr. then saw his namesake enroll at Michigan. Devin Bush, Jr. was a four-star linebacker and a potential FSU legacy but decided to play for the Wolverines.

His father was also named on Tuesday to replace Bush as the head coach at Flanagan High School.

“Right now I’m definitely going to be my own man and my own dude,” Samuels said. “Like I said I haven’t made any decisions. I’m going to talk it out with my parents and my family. As of right now, I’m going to be my own man and do this with my own style and make this my decision.”

He will definitely enroll early. Expect him to make his college commitment in the next 4-5 months. As of right now, he said he’d make his decision shortly after he attends “The Opening” in July.

Which recruits in the Class of 2017 is he the closest to? That was one of his most intriguing responses. He named LeCounte (Georgia commit), Jamyest Williams (undecided), D.J. Matthews (FSU commit), Cyrus Fagan (FSU commit), DeAngelo Gibbs (undecided) and Vandarius Cowan (FSU commit) in that order. Uncommitted receiver Jerry Jeudy was another big-time player he considers a close friend.

The rising senior named Smart, FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the three coaches he has the best relationships with. Samuels said that Michigan and then Alabama have reached out to him the most over the last two weeks.

“Georgia definitely has a real shot with me, though,” he said. “I definitely see when I go up there that I can play right now and go in and contribute early.”

LeCounte also won’t let him forget it.

“That guy is always saying something about Georgia,” Samuels said. “It is ‘come play with your boy’ and then more ‘come play with your boy’ and we talk all the time. Then it is ‘come win championships with your boy’ and ‘you look good in that red and black’ and always along those lines. Always something like ‘Go Dawgs’ and something about those Bulldogs.”


G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.

Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for 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.

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