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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Brookwood High senior Leonard Warner III is one of the priority targets at LB for UGA for 2017.

Sentell’s Intel: Early impact LB Leonard Warner III has altered his decision timeline

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
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Brookwood ILB Leonard Warner III hinted when the 2016 season got underway that he was close to making his decision. He was one of about 8-9 LBs that Georgia has targeted to upgrade that position going forward.

Warner had an ideal profile. He was 6-foot-4 with length. The 4-star prospect rates as the nation’s No.8 ILB for 2017 and competes at a quality program. The highly-intelligent player also has the academic muscle to strongly consider Duke, Georgia Tech and Stanford among his college options.

It seemed that he’d almost seen everything he needed to see and he estimated the month of October would be a likely finish line for his decision.

The 4-star prospect has revised that plan. Don’t look for his decision to come until after the season. He will not graduate in December so his timeline is not as rushed as some of his peers. He wants to take the rest of his official visits after the season.

“Whatever he decides we want to support him but he definitely wants to take all his visits,” his father Leonard Warner Jr. said.

Those schools have suggested that Warner visit later in the fall. That’s when he’s not in the midst of a strong season at Brookwood. The Broncos (5-2) are ranked No. 10 in Class AAAAAAA.

“You know how it is when you travel,” his father said. “You don’t have enough time to see everything you need to see. We definitely want to have enough time to take advantage of the full attention of the staff and also of the faculty.”

Warner has only taken an official visit to Florida State so far. Visits to Georgia, Georgia Tech and Stanford will also be crucial. The final official visit is up in the air. The interest in Duke has not been a hot topic lately, but there has also been increased attention from Tennessee to consider.

Look for the Warners to start taking those visits on the first Friday after the Broncos have finished their season.

When that time comes look for Stanford to be his next visit.

leonard-warner-iii-by-jeff-sentell-082516d
Warner is rated as the nation’s No. 8 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

“We really want to make sure we visit Stanford first with what we’ve got left to do,” his father said. “We want to travel that way first. That is the furthest trip away and we want to do that the first available time we can get out there. When we can, we will. That’s the one that is really holding everything up. We really want to make sure he sees that campus and meets those coaches.”

The GHSA state football playoffs will extend into the first two weeks of December. If he wants to visit Stanford on a game weekend, that program has home games on Nov. 5 and Nov. 26. Those would be during the first and quarterfinal rounds of the GHSA state playoffs, respectively.

“His words are he wants to see Stanford,” Leonard Warner Jr. said. “My words are I want him to know what’s out there so he can make this decision for himself so we are in perfect step in that respect.”

When they discuss his decision, he tries to react off what his son’s thoughts are. He made it clear that this was his son’s decision.

Florida State made a great impression as it checked off everything he was looking for on the athletic and academic sides. Seminoles LB coach Bill Miller made a big impression with his decades of experience.

“He loved the fact that Coach Miller has been able to affect the careers of so many high-caliber players,” Warner Jr. said. “He talked about (UGA coach) Kirby (Smart) and the influence his expertise will have on the linebackers there. Stanford of course with the great reputation. Then there’s Georgia Tech. Needless to say how important that is to his path to his career. To be honest with you, it is pretty much in the air. I couldn’t tell you where his head is at right now. We have so many communications and discuss so many external factors.”

Warner has told DawgNation in the past that he’s looking for the best of both worlds. He’s looking for the great education and a high-powered achieving football program.

“He’s always talked about people and a fit as well,” his father said. “When he goes to a school he always wants to feel comfortable and experience that fit. … He does have the certain different personal feelings about relating to people as well. I think that is going to be a major factor as well as the academics or whatever. He’s just trying to feel his way and his thing is ‘When I get there and I feel in then that is when I will know’ with this decision.”

The officials will now come with an extended timeline after his high school season. But look for a few unofficial visits. There have been discussions to go back to UGA for the Georgia Tech game. A trip to Tennessee has been discussed along with Clemson at Florida State on Oct. 29.

The UGA discussion

Warner has said the easiest thing for him to do would be to go to Georgia.

“I think the reason he said that is because if you watch him when he went there (on a visit) he just felt comfortable and looked comfortable,” his father said. “He just fit right in. He also did when he went to Florida State.”

Leonard Warner and his mother Nicole Warner attended the Corky Kell Classic Kickoff Luncheon back in August. (Rob Saye / Special)
Leonard Warner and his mother Nicole Warner attended the Corky Kell Classic Kickoff Luncheon back in August. (Rob Saye / Special)

But he’s an advanced thinker that understands a lot of growth comes from going beyond a personal comfort zone.

“Tech recruits him a little different than everyone else,” Warner Jr. said. “Tech recruits him and wants him to understand that this school recruits the cream of the crop when it comes to engineering. This is who we are and this is what we do. It is more of a business approach to the whole thing than all your bells and whistles. So he takes it all in but we are relaxed about it and we are open about it.”

Does his father think Georgia’s struggles this year have affected his son’s outlook on the program?

“Not quite but you know I haven’t talked to him about the losses,” Warner Jr. said. “That’s the one thing that I haven’t done. We’ll discuss like Georgia losing again or whatever and he will say it was a young game or mention that (Jacob) Eason is still young and is going to have his growing pains.”

He said the family hasn’t made it an issue for a specific reason.

“He does understand who will be on this team as well,” Warner Jr. said. “He realizes that Georgia is going to have a pretty good class and if he signs and a couple other kids sign that it might be one of the best classes Georgia has had in years. He does see that. Trust me, we talk about that all the time. We talk about it all the time about what it would be like if ‘we’ all go there. That’s ‘we’ meaning him and everybody else in this class from Georgia who is expected to go there.”

The Warners were at the Tennessee game. Their reactions to that outcome were vivid.

“He wanted them to win so bad,” Warner Jr. said. “Everyone in the stands wanted them to win and he really wanted Georgia to win. The team needed that type of win. Not just a regular win but to beat an undefeated team like that at home in a close game. It was a big letdown and he said that he felt bad for the team. He really wanted them to win that game against Tennessee.”

Linebacker Friday continues

Kenney “KJ” Britt is another linebacker high on UGA’s wish list for 2017. There are about 9-10 names that could eventually be a part of this year’s class, but I’d easily put Britt among the best options there.

The 6-foot, 230-pounder ranks as the nation’s No. 15 ILB this year but his game is more advanced than that. The 4-star prospect is a true downhill thumper in the middle, but he really impressed me with how he fared in the so-called football ballet settings.

Kenney Britt by Jeff Sentell 090816Britt was named the LB MVP of the Nike Atlanta “The Opening” regional last spring and then went out to Oregon and was named to the first-team defense after the 7-on-7 tournament. That’s a tremendous feat given that what he does best is punish an opponent in full pads. Not run around cones and pads and not shadow slot receivers and backs in coverage.

He’s also a prize for Stanford, too. Britt will take his official visit out to Palo Alto this week and I feel that’s a make-or-break visit for his recruiting. He was clearly interested in the opportunity that comes with a Stanford degree.

This trip in my mind could determine whether or not Stanford is a factor. A so-so visit would largely allow him to remain in the SEC. Britt is the type of person that when you meet him you realize that he’ll continue to make a great contribution to society after his playing days are over.

When a Duke recruiter mentions the best conversation he’s ever had with a teenage boy was the one he had with Britt, it only reinforces that point. I can really see him at Stanford.

That’s not a prediction, but just an opinion that he would thrive there. The coaching staffs at Auburn and Georgia have done a terrific job in recruiting Britt and he’s very close with the commitments at each school. He’s highly-respected by his peers as the best LB prospects in the South continually bring up Britt as one of the guys they’d most like to play with.

The Stanford visit could be a game-changer in his recruiting. He could enroll early, but that’s not allowed in Palo Alto. He’d have to decide he wants to play for Stanford enough to bypass the chance to enroll early in January at a major SEC program like Auburn, Ole Miss or UGA.

Britt doesn’t even need a classic highlight reel. Here’s his last game. That’s enough to show his worth.

The latest on Monty Rice 

My personal feeling on 3-star ILB Monty Rice is he will wind up at Georgia. The only alternative would be if Alabama found an extra scholarship or two for linebackers but that does not appear to be the case.

Rice is rated as the nation's No. 22 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Rice is rated as the nation’s No. 22 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

UGA had been his stated leader for quite some time, but he recently told 247Sports.com’s Keith Niebuhr that he has no official leader. That’s a new development since he told DawgNation on Sept. 23 that Georgia was his outright leader.

He will be a December graduate so his timeline is accelerated compared to Warner. SEC Country’s Benjamin Wolk caught up with Rice recently and the ILB shared the following thoughts.

  • He’s scheduled an official visit to FSU for the Clemson game on Oct. 29
  • His mother couldn’t join him on a planned trip to Arkansas so he took an unofficial visit to Mississippi State instead
  • Rice said he wasn’t close to a decision. His next trip to UGA will be for the Auburn game on Nov. 12.
  • Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss were named as his top options. He added UCLA to the mix in his conversation with Niebhur.
  • LSU would have been another contender, but he won’t take another serious look at that school until a permanent head coach is named.

Paying it Forward

Grayson High seniors DeAngelo Gibbs and Jamyest Williams are two of the top players in the nation. They’ve held that status for at least the last two years, if not longer.

They’ve been all up and down the combine and showcase circuits and they also work very hard at their craft. So when they tell me about a player they feel who has been grossly undervalued, I listen.

They both feel that Grayson teammate Elijah Shah deserves a hard look from college football. They feel the 5-foot-8, 160-pounder could be a weapon somewhere in major college football.

His size won’t be help but the respect he’s garnered going up against two high-profile teammates daily should.

“He’s a dynamic kid,” Williams said. “He can play at our level. He knows how to move. He has great feet and great ball skills and he listens. He’s a very coachable kid.”

Gibbs said he’d put Shah and another teammate Jaylen Fleming are basically impossible to guard.

“I’ve seen them go to camps and the other teams put their best players on them and they can’t guard them,” Gibbs said. “I’ve yet to see anyone guard them. I’ve said that I would put Jaylen and Elijah against any defensive back in the country. That’s what I truly believe. Those two are talented and can really play for somebody. Somebody will get a steal.”

Shah’s undersized so he won’t be a clear-cut fit in major college football, but just look at what Isaiah McKenzie has done for Georgia.

Those two speak about Shah in the same light.

 

 

 

 

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Follow Jeff Sentell 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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