Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. The call here is a visit with a potential impact recruit who will not break the bank on the official visit tab coming from Clarke County. That’s 4-star ILB target Len’Neth Whitehead out of Athens Academy.
ATHENS – There was a moment last week where the recruiting beat intersected with a post-practice press conference. The specific instance involved the recruitment of 4-star Athens Academy ILB Len’Neth Whitehead. (First name phonetics: It rhymes with “beneath.”
It came while Kirby Smart was taking accountability for the recent allegations and arrests on his team. The current tally is six arrests in the off months since the last game.
Smart was frustrated. Clearly. But this connection came while he was answering a question about what he can do as the leader of the program to prevent future occurrences.
He said: “I think the biggest thing is you say ‘Alright, what is your selection process? What are your criteria when you go to select players?’ You want to get guys of high character that make good decisions.”
To be clear, there are dozens of players like that on the team now. Their stories and families clearly reflect how privileged they feel to be studying and playing ball at the University of Georgia.
How does one streamline that selection process Smart brought up? He has no exact criteria. No school does.
GPAs and test scores can be a part of the procedure. But that needs to mesh with evaluation and character references from coaches and teachers and school administrators.
Here’s a better measure: Coach’s kids. They can spot a good guy in a helmet from the sideline.
That’s where Whitehead flashes here. This will not go heavy on the fact he’s rated as the nation’s No. 7 ILB prospect (247Sports Composite ratings) AND played both ways while tallying up 1,481 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns in 2018.
It is about a Halloween costume worn by a 10-year-old. Laura Elliott Alexander just so happens to be the daughter of the head coach of the Athens Academy team.
Talk about a litmus. Even for a major cog in a team that played in the state finals last December.
“My family loves him,” Athens Academy coach Josh Alexander said. “My daughter dressed up as him for Halloween. As a football player. Number four. For Halloween.”
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Saw an @athens_academy football player trick or treating tonight! The Head Coach’s daughter told me she’s not only a Spartan football player, but wants it to be clear she’s @4tuff.b !!!!!! Hope to see all Spartans Friday at Slaughter Field for the Region Championship game vs Commerce!
He could fit the “superhero” mold worn by today’s kids. Or the scary sight of a linebacker with a 4.5 laser in the 40 filling up “A” gap and “B” gap.
“He loves his people,” Alexander said of Whitehead. “He loves people. He’s sort of like a rock star at this school. He’s so generous and he’s so nice. He is pleasant to be around. I’ve never heard him say a disrespectful word, be disrespectful or say something bad about somebody. I know some of that is talk, but it is the truth with him.”
The real fun from our conversation was testing him on monologues. Whitehead is deeply interested in the dramatic arts. He could see himself as an actor one day.
The budding thespian was shooting back lines for strong male characters in Oscar-nominated films. He centered on a Will Smith read from the movie “Ali.”
It was fun seeing that side of a terrific football player who also excels in track and field.
The athletic profile for Le’Neth Whitehead
Whitehead clocked a 4.50 laser in the 40 at the Atlanta Opening regional. It sparked a quick UGA offer.
Top 100 LB Len’neth Whitehead is one of the better athletes in the 2020 cycle. Among the nation’s best shot out throwers pic.twitter.com/LUAepsGpFU
— Charles Power (@CharlesPower) March 24, 2019
If he eventually chooses the Bulldogs, he’d likely have the most straight-line speed of anyone in Glenn Schumann’s room based off that time.
If he played soccer for his high school team, he’d likely quickly become the best player on that squad.
There’s also the shot put. Whitehead aspires to play football and throw the shot in college. He’s capable of still turning that weight into a cannonball on his worst heaves.
Whitehead told me his best throws now are in 67-plus feet territory. That’s state champion-level stuff. The nation’s best effort right now is just an inch shy of 69 feet. That’s how good he is at that.
Pick the sport. He could be “that guy” in any one of them. He can squat 500-plus pounds and bench another 350. There are very few humans in the 350 bench press, 500-pound squat, 67 feet, 3-inch shot put club. Add in a 4.50 laser in the 40. That class roll then becomes very slim.
Whitehead might be the only athlete in the state of Georgia that can do all that. Or any other state.
He will log 50 plays a game at linebacker and staff the kick teams. Whitehead also gets about 20-35 carries a game as a workhorse RB. It is not foreign to see a game report where he goes for more than 200 on the ground and pairs that with at least a dozen tackles in a game.
“He’s one of those guys if he ever has a chance to play one way he is going to be very very good,” Alexander said.
Ask him to run the route tree for a receiver. It is not the stuff of linebackers.
(This is the part where we make mention of how fond Smart and the UGA staff are of multi-sport athletes. Especially during track season.)
“But the main thing I like about Len’Neth is the way he carries himself,” Alexander said. “I think he does a really good job of representing himself, his school and his family.”
There’s something pretty special at work on the campus of Athens Academy. It is a campus that houses all grades from three years to 18 years of age. Alexander is a sliver of that school’s vision.
“I also love the way he nourishes and grows up people,” Alexander said. “To me, a great leader is an individual that always take time and pride in replacing himself. Len’Neth has really taken that on and sees the seventh, eighth and ninth graders in our program and does a good job of replacing himself. Whether it is in the weight room, on campus or on the field.”
“He thinks about the next wave of guys to come up after him.”
That part sounds exactly like what the coaches at Horn Lakes High said about Georgia freshman Nakobe Dean.
Want to know the potential best play on his highlight reel? The Athens Academy staff would love to get a clip of this “rock star” athlete picking up trash in the locker room or on his way around campus. He does that, too.
Until they get that one on film, these two will have to do.
— Athens Academy Football (@AthensAcademyFB) March 26, 2019
— Phenom Training (@Phenom_Training) March 30, 2019
The college options for Len’Neth Whitehead
Athens Academy instills in its young people the notion of four pillars.
- Fine arts
The aim is not to let any pillar grow taller than the others. If it does, the house will fall in on itself. That’s not the proper foundation for a young person.
“The fall and spring play is as important as the state championship in Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Alexander said. “You don’t hear a lot of football coaches tell you that.”
Service very well might be the most targeted pillar for those Spartans. Whitehead did at least six or seven service projects for his community over the last year. Everyone on his team did.
His favorite book is “To Kill a Mockingbird” right now. It is all about making him into a great citizen and father and husband when his days of playing ball are over.
Before that, he’s got to figure out the next three to four years of his life. He already holds a 3.2-plus grade-point average in a challenging curriculum.
The work ethic is there. Alexander shared a story of Whitehead working on a farm in his native Morgan County.
Where will he spend his college years doing that? He shared his thought on which schools are really in it for him.
“I’d have to say UGA, Oklahoma, Tennessee and South Carolina,” he said just last week.
Auburn and Clemson are two other schools he hopes to receive offers from. If so, those programs would further complicate his decision.
He can see himself committed sometime this summer. Very likely before the start of his senior year. An early enrollment at Athens Academy is rare, but they are working on plans to afford him that chance, too.
The pitch from UGA to Len’Neth Whitehead
Speed. That’s it. Simply.
“They always talk about how my speed is,” Whitehead said. “They don’t have 4.5 speed [at the ILB spot.] So they always mention that every time I see them. That’s my biggest attribute to the team. That’s my biggest selling pitch.”
There were reports he had a little action with the Georgia staff regarding his 40 times. If he ran a 4.5 on the laser at the Opening regional, the Bulldogs would have to offer.
He did. The Bulldogs did. Was it simply just like that?
— juice 2.0🦍 (@LenNethW4) March 24, 2019
“You could say that but it was a side conversation they had about it,” Whitehead said. “It was ‘If he hits 4.5 then we just go to go ahead and offer him’ but it was never set in stone if I hit a 4.5.”
In reality, what it was was just this: Once Whitehead flashed that 4.5 speed in the 40 at 230 pounds on a laser at an Opening regional, then all the big boys in college football would offer him.
He did. Then they did, too.
— juice 2.0🦍 (@LenNethW4) March 25, 2019
Whitehead was even invited to the Opening finals in July out in Texas. That came after he put up the third-best combine testing rating out of all the campers at the regional.
This is the part where we must remind the reader that he’s an ILB target. Not a RB or a WR or a corner.
He is fully briefed over the depth at ILB that UGA has stacked up. He knows that the Bulldogs will not offer a slew of prospects at his position in the 2020 class. With that, he sees the offer from a national title contender like the in-state Bulldogs as a validation of sorts.
Whitehead did attend most of the UGA games last year and the year before, too. Schumann has let him know he would still have an opportunity at UGA. He believes that.
“He said at practice you will always get a chance to prove your worth,” he said. “So you go into practice in the spring and you show out for the first few days you can easily get in and get first-team reps and then they will want to see how you respond to that.”
It might lead to a Halloween costume inspiration along the Georgia coaching staff, too.
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