It is all Alabama’s fault.
Richard LeCounte III, the nation’s new No. 1 athlete for 2017, had planned to make his commitment next month. The 5-star prospect from Liberty County (Ga.) wanted to commit early and use that time to help shape the best possible signing class to join him.
UGA was big in his mind. So was Ohio State. Clemson and Auburn were also in his top group.
Add another SEC power to that picture. LeCounte told DawgNation on Thursday that Alabama has come on strong. Their interest in him has complicated his plan to commit in December.
“I saw myself making that decision before but now all of that has got shook up a bit,” LeCounte said. “I’m really just torn in between some schools. I don’t think I’m going to be able to make that decision as soon as I thought I was.”
He explained why.
“I tried to open my eyes to see more things,” LeCounte said. “It is still early in my recruiting process for me. It was starting to wind down, but now I’ve started to open all my options up again.”
He said he has “gotten a big push from Alabama recently.” The Crimson Tide is recruiting him as an athlete. He also said nothing has changed with him and UGA.
“They are still the home team and a school I keep on my mind,” he said. “I can’t say anything bad about them. They are still real strong among my top schools.”
LeCounte’s stock has soared recently with the recruiting analysts. When DawgNation visited him in late September, it was clear his stock was on the rise. He’s now the No. 2 player in Georgia and the nation’s No. 22 overall prospect for his class.
He’s a lock-down defensive back, but he’s also made a huge impact as a “Wildcat” quarterback and at receiver. He’s a dangerous punt returner, but it has been about two months since any team has risked adding to his highlight reel by kicking to him.
“It doesn’t matter what I play in college,” LeCounte said. “Anywhere my school puts me will be good. I don’t have a favorite spot, but I’d rather dish the hits out in college than take them.”
Liberty County faces Cartersville in the second round of the Georgia state playoffs on Friday night. He’s been impressed by Cartersville’s Trevor Lawrence, the 5-star quarterback who is rated as the nation’s No. 1 prospect for 2018.
“He’s very poised in how he makes his decisions and his reads,” LeCounte said. “He’s a real disciplined quarterback and loves the deep ball. He can throw the deep ball with anybody in the nation and has the size for it, too. I think he’s just a great quarterback.”
LeCounte said his last trip was to Ohio State for the “Blackout” game against Penn State. He did not elevate the Buckeyes above UGA and his other top schools, but said they continue to recruit him the hardest.
“Love everything about them,” LeCounte said. “Campus is great. The things they are doing up there are awesome. It’s hard not to like that them with all the good things they are doing.”
LeCounte has shut down his college visits until the playoffs are over. He wants to focus on his high school team at this time.
Jeff Sentell covers 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.