Kirby Smart just wrapped up his first big recruiting weekend in Athens with his first public commitment. And it was a big one. Liberty County standout Richard LeCounte, ranked by 247Sports as the #1 athlete in the 2017 class, was coveted by every major program in the nation before pledging to the Bulldogs today.
It's a long time until Signing Day 2017, and LeCounte will continue to hear from those programs. Why? Because as the video below from his recently-completed junior season demonstrates, LeCounte is a game-changer. A player who is faster than anyone else on the field and aggressively seeks out the endzone on every single play.
Liberty County head coach Kirk Warner (a Georgia Bulldog tight end under Vince Dooley) follows the most important rule of high school coaching: you must get the ball in the hands of your best players. That's why he uses LeCounte variously as a quarterback, kick returner, and defensive back among other roles. LeCounte reminds me of a couple of former 'Dawgs. He reminds me a bit of Bacarri Rambo in terms of his knack for making plays and willingness to play physical football. But I'm not sure LeCounte is quite as strong as Rambo, at least not quite yet. His ball skills and general athleticism call to mind Brandon Boykin. Boykin would probably be the most apt comparison, as LeCounte has a similar size and build to Boykin at the same stage. If LeCounte adds muscle (as he must to play in the SEC, and as Boykin did) he could be a versatile fixture in the defensive backfield in years to come.
There's been a lot of chatter about what effect Kirby Smart's hiring might have on Bulldog recruiting. While there have been some 2016 recruits who appear to have been positively influenced, it is the 2017 class where Smart can make his mark. Getting perhaps the top player in the state to commit over a year before National Signing Day is a coup, the kind of start a coach can build from. Many thought LeCounte would follow his former Liberty County teammate Raekwon McMillan to Ohio State, so keeping him in the Peach State would be an honest-to-goodness big deal in recruiting circles. The critical question however remains: can Kirby Smart win enough football games in 2016 to convince recruits that he has something special Into which they should buy? We'll just have to wait on the answer to that one. Until later...