Richard LeCounte III called his shot.
This isn’t baseball, but the prediction he gave me last September rings true almost weekly on the recruiting trail. It was Ruthian without the wave of a finger to the sky.
“I’m going to commit early,” LeCounte III said then. “Like in December. When I do, I want to do everything I can to get other guys to come play with me. I want to be a big part of building a great class at my school.”
Everyone says that. Yet few put in work afterward like he has. He works on players the way he works on his own game. That’s because he knows his goals won’t be realized in a team sport without a lot of talented help.
That choice then was going to be Georgia or Ohio State. When Kirby Smart was hired in Athens, it took him just six days to make up his mind. LeCounte was in the books as Smart’s first commitment on Dec. 13. He was the fourth member of the 2017 class at that time, but every one of those previous pledges has since de-committed.
The eldest statesman of #SICEM17 is also the highest-rated member of the class at No. 24 nationally. That just seems right.
I first saw those words in action when LeCounte III walked into the media room at the Rising Seniors game last December and started calling out guys who would become Bulldogs. When he lost a tooth during a practice drill at that All-Star event and didn’t miss a rep, he was working. He never bothered to fetch that tooth as far as I know. He was already talking to DeAngelo Gibbs about Georgia back then as much as anyone not named Breon Dixon. Gibbs is still the state’s top uncommitted prospect.
That didn’t let up when he playfully had fun on Twitter watching Georgia flipping Alabama commits like Netori Johnson and Tyler Simmons. When LeCounte shadowed prized RB Toneil Carter at The Opening in Oregon in the days leading up to his announcement, he was still walking the walk behind all that talk.
“Everything is going exactly as planned,” LeCounte said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
It is no coincidence that Georgia’s recruiting class is currently rated No. 3 in the nation.
His pitch has always been more substance and simplicity than slick. His message is usually just “come home” when he’s urging another big-timer to join him in the Class of 2017 in Athens. Yet the messenger carries weight here. LeCounte’s reputation is pristine when it comes to making plays on the field. He’s earned everyone’s respect. Over and over.
His peer recruits freely mention he’s as effective as any recruiter on the staff. Give the man a polo shirt with a red “G” on already. That’s what they say.
Georgia has 14 public commitments. The ever confident LeCounte agreed with the notion he’s 14-for-14 so far on targets he hoped to lure to Georgia. He continues to work on a circle of targets that includes KJ Britt, Gibbs, Malik Herring and Jamyest Williams.
He said at The Opening the commitment list would likely add more names in August than the rest of July and he was right about that.
The approach has usually been for a quarterback to commit early and then see the other big-timers fall in around them. LeCounte has done the same in a way I wondered if any safety could.
Yet he’s quick to deflect attention to quarterback commitment Jake Fromm as another leader of this year’s signing class.
“He has that arm and yet he’s our technician,” LeCounte said of his peer commit. “He’s everything you want in a commit and he’s our Peyton Manning,” LeCounte said. “He’s in the pocket. He’s doing his thing. You can’t hope for anything more out of a quarterback than what he have with Jake.”
His story is something to think about for those who want to get their time to shine in the recruiting process. LeCounte committed early but has seen his name in headlines often because of the talent he’s flashed in recruiting showcases but also in the way he works for Georgia.
He released a Top 5 list the other day on Twitter and the school he was committed owned all five slots.
1 . UGA
3 . UGA
— Richard LeCounte III (@LilEasy_35) July 24, 2016
While others build their brands by endearing themselves to multiple fan bases and stretching it out, his choice allowed him to focus his attention on just the one school which really matters to him. His unwavering confidence in Georgia has no doubt helped others when they size up their college choices as a somewhat difficult decision. That carries far more weight than any silent commitment could.
His actions weren’t attention seeking, but somehow they have continued to endear him to the fanbase as much as any prospect possibly could. He’s been committed for eight months and yet he still seems like he’s at the center of everything.
He’s known more for what he’s done after his commitment than what he was prior to that. That’s a pretty neat trick in today’s relentless cycle of recruiting news.
A little news this afternoon
Just wanted to make sure everyone saw the tweet from Alabama four-star linebacker KJ Britt. He had planned to make his commitment decision (likely UGA or Auburn) this Saturday, but he’s backed off that stance now.
It might mean that the race between those schools is still very tight, but I gather this is more of making sure his decision is sound with schools like Florida and LSU in the picture. There’s also been recent interest from schools like Cal and Stanford.
Britt is rated as the 15th-best inside linebacker in the nation right now, but that’s woefully low. He was named the Top LB at the Nike Atlanta regional for the Opening. Then he was named as one of the elite defensive players at that event last month. Which is saying quite a lot because the best parts of Britt’s game come out when the pads come on.
The 6-foot, 229-pound prospect also thankfully came through unscathed when a car he was in recently was hit by a drunk driver. His little brother was also inside and was taken to the hospital for observation and further testing but he also came out okay.
Sorry for the confusion‼️ But I wont be committing anymore this weekend. Im unsure for when I will
— Kenney Britt Jr (@K_Britt10) August 1, 2016
Four-star defensive end Malik Herring (Mary Persons HS/ Forsyth, Ga.) also told DawgNation this morning he wasn’t sure he will make his commitment announcement on Aug. 25 anymore. He’s no longer certain of that date.
That takes some of the sizzle off a potential big August for the Bulldogs, but there’s still a lot to think about for the month. To recap:
- 5-star junior QB Trevor Lawrence (Cartersville HS/ Cartersville, Ga. ) could decide at any time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it take another 10 days or so. He might just commit right before the 2016 season gets underway for his Hurricanes.
- 5-star senior ATH JaCoby Stevens (Oakland HS / Murfreesboro, Tenn.) still plans a 2:30 PM (CST) announcement at his high school. His four finalists are Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU. We’ll make sure to cite the recent surge in Alabama and then LSU predictions on the 247Sports Crystal Ball with this choice. Georgia had a comfortable lead for Stevens as recently as two months ago. His father told SEC Country on Monday that LSU and Alabama are out in front right now.
- 4-star DE Malik Herring (Mary Persons HS / Forsyth, Ga.) was set to make his commitment known Aug. 25. That’s his aunt’s birthday. She passed away from breast cancer and was a very big part of his life. That was the expectation regarding Herring, but he told DawgNation on Monday that he wasn’t sure if he was going to do that anymore.
- 4-star senior RB D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s / Philadelphia, Pa.) plans to make his commitment known at the end of August when he travels cross-country to California for a Sept. 2 game against Oaks Christian. Swift is rated as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose RB for 2017.
- 4-star senior WR Mark Webb is expected to follow shortly after Swift. Webb has maintained that those two first cousins are a package deal.
New recruiting rules on social media
Those that pay close attention to the lives of recruits on social media got an eyeful early this morning when the NCAA’s new policies went into effect. The new tweaks allow coaches to retweet and like tweets made by prospects on Twitter.
UGA receivers coach James Coley was active out of the gate shortly after midnight. The rest of the UGA staff quickly followed suit. It will be interesting to see what develops from these new policies. Coaches are not permitted to mention the names of specific student-athletes in interviews. That would be a NCAA violation, but a prospect can now tweet out a Pro-Georgia edit or picture and then subsequently be re-tweeted by most of the coaching, recruiting and support staff. That is now permitted.
These are interesting times.
Alabama has notably not jumped on board with the new policy as of yet. Of course.
Official Class of 2017 offers also went out today
That last item made for a fun morning on Twitter, but there was another wrinkle that also added to the variety on every prospect timeline. Monday also marked the first day that NCAA member institutions could notify prospects of their official scholarship offers.
That’s pretty funny. Like anyone thought that maybe 50 direct messages a week a week on Twitter was just too subtle.
— Kj Britt (@K_Britt10) August 1, 2016
The football factory at USC also put together a very eye-catching look for their offers.
— JadenHunter (@JadenHunter9) August 1, 2016
ICYMI: check out this tweet
This edition’s must-see tweet shows off the speed and power available to 4-star RB and UGA commitment Toneil Carter.
Go ahead. Scan down. We’ll let those pictures substitute for any words I might have here.
— Toneil Carter (@CarterToneil) July 29, 2016
The nearly 5-foot-11, 191-pound prospect is rated the nation’s No. 7 RB for the Class of 2017.
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.