What’s Important Now: The Georgia recruiting stories you better not miss

Georgia coach Kirby Smart has a lot to think about right now when it comes to the Class of 2017.

Been too busy soaking up rays, throwing steaks on the grill or casting a line in the water? Did you miss that Georgia currently has the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation for 2017?

We get that. That’s why DawgNation will pop up a periodic “What’s Important Now” recap that curates all the stories you need to stay plugged into Georgia recruiting — even when we’d all rather plug our earbuds in at the beach or on the lake.

What’s Important Now in UGA recruiting

Welcome to the dead period

The dead period for NCAA recruiting began yesterday. The quick definition of a “dead period” is no in-person contact between coaches and recruits is allowed, even on campus. Written and electronic communication is still allowed, though.

In reality, it is more like a life period that allows staffs of big-time programs to go on vacation and see their families. That fills up the summer scrapbook before the grind of the season begins in July.

Trevor Lawrence showed he belonged in the same throwing group with UGA commits Jacob Eason and Bailey Hockman at Dawg Night last July. Pretty ironic that this picture might still have two future UGA quarterbacks in it. (Rob Saye/ Special)

Georgia will hold its elite summer camp for high school prospects from July 15-17. Those dates aren’t great for attracting elite talent, as it will conflict with the National Select 7-on-7 in Hoover (July 14-16) and the Cam Newton 7-on-7 in South Carolina (July 15-16), but the overlap will help somewhat.

UGA under Kirby Smart will not have a major “Dawg Night” in which the staff tries to get every major target on campus at the same time. That’s just very hard to do considering all the summer events taking place. The Bulldogs prefer the “we’re always open” policy if a big-time recruit wants to come take a look. They want to avoid seeing those guys go off and find someplace else to visit and possibly fall in love with.

Take last year, for instance. UGA held a massive “Dawg Night” with mixed results. Jacob Eason flashed the arm, Mecole Hardman, Jr. flashed the wheels but there were so many campers that most walked away ticked off. They didn’t get enough reps in front of the coaches.

So LeCounte will take a few official visits. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be counted as one of UGA’s most committed prospects. Just look at what he continues to do on the recruiting trail.

His charisma and personality are infectious, and they aren’t even really necessary considering the way he plays the game. He’s just pure fun to watch. Period. Check out this back-flip and the height on that sucker:

LeCounte told DawgNation what he thinks of the 2017 class so far, including what it needs and what is still to come. He also reeled off four names that he feels are the guys he will recruit the hardest down the stretch.

The number I have in mind for LeCounte is at least five. That’s how many recruits will say, after National Signing Day next February, that LeCounte played an integral role in their decision to sign with Georgia.

Name to know for 2018

It would be a stretch to say that UGA is the team to beat for Florida’s top prospect in 2018 — that being four-star cornerback Tyreke Johnson out of Trinity Christian. The Jacksonville resident wants to take his talents outside of the state of Florida, and it would be fair to say that UGA will be a team to beat for Johnson.

Johnson rates as the nation’s No. 10 overall prospect for 2018. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)

Why? His close relationships with LeCounte and Florida native Reggie Wilkerson, a cornerback on the Georgia roster. UGA freshman Isaac Nauta recently had a “reality” discussion about what it means to play big-time football at a major program and just how tough that actually is.

Oh, and he also thinks that UGA coach Kirby Smart is a mastermind.

He’s already said that UGA will get one of his official visits.

Viral Video time

Did you catch this one from LeCounte at the IMG 7-on-7 National Championships? SBNation’s Bud Elliott had a great angle on it.

The terms “elite” and “savage” get tossed around a lot this year. This young man deserves something a few tiers above those. His blend of aggressiveness, athleticism and passion is a rare blend.

Gurley and Marshall begat Chubb and Sony ….so who will be the next duo?

The running back pedigree for UGA football over the last few recruiting cycles has been to take two Top 10-level backs (at least) every two years. That will definitely be the case for 2017.

Carter has emerged as a big name to know for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

There’s really three names to know on the top shelf for 2017 at UGA: 4-stars Cam Akers (rated No. 2 in the nation), D’Andre Swift  and Toneil Carter. Akers seems like the toughest fish to reel in at this time. He’ll likely have Ole Miss, Tennessee, Ohio State and UGA among his four finalists.

Carter, as pointed out by Jake Rowe of 247Sports recently, is predicted to sign with UGA by the majority of the analysts on that site’s popular “Crystal Ball” Feature. Carter has told DawgNation in the past just how much he knows about UGA’s running back history despite growing up in Texas. The Houston-area product is rated as the nation’s No. 5 running back.

Rowe’s colleague Kipp Adams of 247Sports followed that post recently with one touting that UGA has also taken the predictions lead for Swift. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder is rated as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back for 2017.

As summer heats up, it looks more like Carter and Swift are the ones leaning the most toward UGA at the moment. Swift is also said to be part of a likely package deal with four-star receiver Mark Webb. That’s his cousin.

Don’t sleep on …..

I have my selection for the most underrated player in the state of Georgia this year.  Virginia safety commitment Joey Blount is a strong contender for that honor, but that guy has to be Walter Grant.

The senior linebacker from Cairo is just rated as a three-star, but he’s the most versatile linebacker out of any of the prospects that UGA is recruiting heavily this year. He could come in and quickly become a quality player at defensive end, inside linebacker or outside linebacker.

Grant is one of the most underrated players in the South this recruiting cycle. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Nick Saban was highly impressed by Grant’s abilities. The Cairo coaching staff told DawgNation this spring that Grant’s abilities to cover downfield on a wheel route stood out to Saban. The Alabama said one of the key points in the national championship game in January was made by a linebacker defending a wheel route downfield.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder is a highly intelligent player who could call the defenses at Cairo if asked to do so. He’s earned that much trust among the coaching staff by frequently lining up his teammates prior to the snap.

Grant can play all three different spots on defense and not look lost doing it. Yet he’s only ranked as the nation’s No. 320 player overall. He doesn’t go to a lot of those showcase events, or else that ranking would be a lot higher.

There’s a lot of Leonard Floyd-type elements to his game. Grant has an 81-inch wingspan, a 355-power clean, a smart head for the game and never misses tackles. Those traits are very hard to find. Versatile intelligent linebackers with length are a must these days when dealing with spread offenses.

There’s also just an innate level of toughness in players that come from South Georgia. 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. 

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