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What does Richard LeCounte III think about all the talent that UGA is stacking up?

What does Richard LeCounte III think about what lies ahead for UGA?

Jeff Sentell

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet for Wednesday calls for a look into how UGA freshman Richard LeCounte III believes the program is evolving under coach Kirby Smart. 

Richard LeCounte III was one of the most interesting recruits ever to sign with Georgia. A home-grown, 5-star prospect from Liberty County High School in Hinesville, he dug in and cared deeply about wanting Georgia players to stay home and rep their state.

He displayed uncommon effort during his recruiting cycle to make sure that the players who were coming in to play with him were the sort that could be counted on to make the plays that win games.

Richard LeCounte III-UGA recruiting
Richard LeCounte III really enjoyed that Rose Bowl win. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

In short, LeCounte didn’t want to play with any bums.

The former 5-star safety is a natural and effective communicator. Folks are just drawn to him. That’s why it was no surprise when Justin Fields told DawgNation that LeCounte was already serving as an effective program ambassador and 5-star recruiting host during his freshman year.

There was this one speech he gave to a room with a number of elite 2018 and 2019 targets that moved the room. 

It was a transition. The team’s most effective commitment recruiter quickly morphed into a go-to internal host on a big visit weekend.

The phrase “national championship” was definitely dropped in front of Fields, fellow 5-star prospects Jamaree Salyer and Zamir White, and several others.

“That was definitely the plan,” LeCounte said at a team media day earlier this month. “I understood early on with this class that we needed a lot of guys. That was because we were going to be losing a lot of guys this year.”

Shooters shoot. But LeCounte kept his pitch straight.

Richard LeCounte’s time watching and learning from the sidelines is pretty much up for the rest of his career at UGA. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“I told them that we needed all of those guys to stay home or come here,” LeCounte said. “I told all those Georgia guys that we needed them to stay home and stay in-state. Just to give us a try. I am never going to be the guy to tell anybody where they need to go. But I just wanted them to know that this program could really be something special if we could get every one of them to come.”

LeCounte always has been the type to spread his message in his own unique way. His message resonated with the recruits.

Despite the maturity he brings to the role of recruiter, he is still young on the field, just having finished his freshman season.

“It was honestly a really big learning experience overall for me,” he said. “But I’m ready to go now. I’m ready to rock now.”

Did he see UGA coming up this fast?

“Yeah,” he said. “I could’ve pictured it. If you just see everything we had and what we got and how it all came together. We had great linebackers that came back. We had a great defensive coordinator. Great offensive line. All those things came together. We had all the pieces with our running backs to really make something happen this year.”

He said he knows the 2017 team set a standard.

“I think you can expect about three or four more of these,” LeCounte said in Atlanta while getting ready to play Alabama for the national title.

Richard LeCounte III’s favorite moments of 2017

It was a special season for LeCounte. He said he had several favorite moments, and most involved the team and his position group.

Richard LeCounte III-Georgia
Richard LeCounte saw some early playing time against Notre Dame. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The list he rattled off led with something from that special triumph in Jacksonville, Fla. Naturally.

  • “Definitely our first score on defense in Florida,” he said. “That was a great memory.”
  • “Malkom Parrish coming back from that four-game stretch and making that big hit at Tennessee,” LeCounte said. “That brightened my day up a lot to see that guy back out there playing.”
  • “It was definitely seeing Jake [Fromm] step up and do what he had to do to keep us rolling,” he said. “Definitely that first touchdown pass against Appalachian State. That guy right there is just cool as the other side of the pillow. I definitely knew that he could do it for us. He’s just a great all-around player and a person. When you’ve got someone that is cool and then has it all together like he does that is smart, then great things are going to happen.”

A goal for 2018? He said he can’t wait to put on those spiked “Savage” shoulder pads one day.

“I am going to embrace that moment when it comes,” he said.

Which recruiting class will wind up the best?

LeCounte stays true to his Class of 2017. The 2018 class already has more 5-star prospects and has risen to the nation’s top spot, but he won’t say that class will have more key players than his. At least not yet.

Richard LeCounte III-UGA recruiting
What does Richard LeCounte III think about what UGA is currently building? (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

 

“You know when I think about it, the ceiling is super high for those guys,” LeCounte said. “I definitely think that they can be. Those young guys are super talented and they also listen to what the coaches have to say. You can’t get much better than that combination.”

He summed up his feelings on the matter with an answer that would make his coaches smile.

“I hope they bring in all the best players that they possibly can,” he said. “I know that will mean we will have a great time getting better and pushing each other at practice.”

The Riceboro native said to look out for redshirt freshman Matt Landers. He said he has the body frame that will remind folks of Georgia all-time great A.J Green.

“Great hands and great speed,” LeCounte said. “He’s what, 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6, and he is amazing in the open field. Folks also need to look out for Mark Webb. He’s already an amazing corner. A great corner. He’s so physical and big and can also run. I could really just keep on going because there are really a lot of guys we’ve got coming up that I can name.”

LeCounte also had his moments in 2017. His freshman-year scrapbook will include several bone-jarring hits.

A few things to keep an eye on regarding UGA recruiting

  • Georgia signee Luke Ford plans to take his official visit to Athens this weekend. The tight end never got to take one while he was an uncommitted recruit.
  • Defensive back Tyson Campbell, the major 5-star target, will make an official visit to Alabama this weekend. The Crimson Tide will host a slew of recruits for their latest national championship parade.
  • The recruitment of linebacker Quay Walker is fluid. I’m hearing a pair of conflicting dates regarding his next official visit to UGA. He has gone back and forth, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he made his official to UGA this weekend. He’s dropped Florida from his scheduled visits, and I’d venture to say that at least Auburn and UGA will get officials.
  • When Texas 4-star safety Leon O’Neal visits UGA, that could get very interesting. Georgia coordinator Mel Tucker took a trip to see him recently, and that’s not something he normally would do at this late in the game with so few spots in the class. I feel the best possible secondary to close this class would include both Tyson Campbell and O’Neal. That would be my preference rather than a pair of bookend corners in Campbell and fellow 5-star Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

Kirby Smart sums up the early signing period 

Georgia coach Kirby Smart joined 680 The Fan’s Doug Konkel and Rusty Mansell of 247Sports to discuss several topics. A few summations of that interview have been heard, read or seen in a few different places.

Still, I wanted to come back to his thoughts on the early period this week during one of the daily offerings. This seems like as a good a place as any.

“I think for the majority of kids, it is a good thing,” Smart said. “They are able to make a decision at their own pace. They are ready to go. But there are some kids that I think might have been pressured into making a decision that they may not have been ready to make yet. They thought, ‘Well, if I don’t take this now, I may not have it later.’ It forces it.”

Kirby Smart-Georgia football
Kirby Smart taps the helmet of speedy playmaker Mecole Hardman Jr. on Jan. 1 at the 2018 Rose Bowl. (Jeff Sentell/ DawgNation)

What levels of college football does it help? Smart had an idea.

“I really think the early signing period is an advantage for your mid-majors and your schools that sometimes they go a great job with evaluating and then another [bigger] school comes in last-second and sweeps up their kids. So it is good and bad. I have no problem with it. I mean if it benefits the student-athlete, then obviously I’m for it.”

There was a schedule adjustment for Smart and his staff, too. They ― happily ― had to figure out how to balance the early signing period with their preparation for their College Football Playoffs appearance in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma.

“I think that being we were in the playoffs this year made it tremendously difficult to manage that and practices,” Smart said. “But it is not every year you get a chance to do that.”

Not sure about that last statement. I bet Smart might like to make a habit of balancing the early period with playoff prep in December.

The way the Bulldogs are now recruiting, that seems likely.

The point that goes unsaid at times with recruiting 

Have you tried the DawgNation.com message board forum yet? It costs nothing and we continue to share some key intel on recruits from time to time.

We’ve opened up a thread that will address a question of the day for forum contributors. Some will be answered within the thread. Others will show up here.

Select questions even will spin off into a standalone post. But for now, I want to share one of the better ones here.

Q: DawgNation graduate level contributor JayDog asked: How many consecutive top 5 recruiting classes do you think it will it take for us to have the depth that Bama has now?

A: Georgia is recruiting at a never-before-seen level. I do not see that slowing down with Smart at the helm and a motivated staff of recruiters on his side.

But there will come a bursting point. I’m sure the fan base will revel in the news of every 5-star and hot prospect choosing to play for the team, but there will be a saturation point. I feel that all the depth charts will be stacked heading into the 2019 season.

Aside from injuries, it will remove any excuses for the on-field play to reflect the amount of talent coming in. Recruiting is vital and yet so is player development. Strength and conditioning also will mean a great deal.

Do great players get better incrementally while they are in a program? That doesn’t get touched on as much as it should.

I think Alabama’s seven years of top-ranked classes do not matter as much anymore. The only ones that matter would be the players from the last three or four cycles.

Those are the ones on the field.

When that time comes in 2019, I do expect to see that Georgia’s classes for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 will be shoulder-to-shoulder with what Alabama was able to stack up.

The programs will be on equal footing. The good thing for DawgNation readers to take to heart is that Smart and his staff proved in 2017 that they can take a lot of great players, coach them up and be on the field in overtime with the chance to win it all.

What did LeCounte say? He thinks the program could be in for three or four more of those.

The foundation is there to do some of those things that Alabama makes look like an annual affair.

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.