Photo: 247Sports
CFB Recruiting

Richard LeCounte III a monumental commit for Kirby Smart

Photo: 247Sports

To say that safety Richard LeCounte III is a big commitment for the Georgia Bulldogs would be an understatement. Just about any way you break it down, the five-star’s commitment to UGA is extremely notable, and he’s easily the Bulldogs’ highest-rated recruit.

According to the 247Sports, LeCounte is the No. 1 2017 safety in America as well as the top recruit from the state of Georgia. He hails from Riceboro, Ga. (Liberty County), and the fact that he chose Georgia was huge for Kirby Smart and his staff.

One of the big criticisms of Mark Richt when he was UGA’s head coach was that he had a hard time keeping top recruits who were interested in the Bulldogs in-state. Of course, that’s easier said than done because Georgia is arguably the most talent-rich state in the nation not named Texas when it comes to high school recruits, and just about every major program in college football considers the state a huge target. Still, Richt’s inability to keep top players interested in the Bulldogs combined with not being able to win the big one was honestly what got him the boot in Athens.

Smart will be afforded a longer leash — he’s in just his first year as a head coach — but the fact that he was able to land the state’s top recruit in his first official recruiting cycle is monumental. Starting off strong on the recruiting trail is imperative, and LeCounte III’s commitment gave UGA a ton of momentum.

He committed to Georgia all the way back in December of 2015, so Smart and his staff were able to keep him hooked during the transition away from Richt. Remember, there was a period when Smart was winning a championship at Alabama while still signed on to be Georgia’s next coach, so that was another notch in his belt when it came to the five-star safety. Not only did Smart win one more national title, but he was able to keep LeCounte committed while pulling double duty.

Even more important? LeCounte has been a great peer-recruiter for the Bulldogs. Top recruits tend to create hype around a class and LeCounte has been that guy for the Bulldogs. Look at what he had to say about the class back in March on vsporto’s SEC Recruiting Buzz (h/t Kipp Adams of 247Sports):

“Really, I think we are going to have great defensive class for 2017, also a great offensive class,” LeCounte said, on vsporto’s SEC Recruiting Buzz. “We are going to lock down the state of Georgia and get everybody involved. Really, it is going to be a great thing to come to Athens and watch.”

Photo Credit: 247Sports

Photo Credit: 247Sports

That’s the type of all-in attitude from a five-star that can put a class over the top. And to that point, UGA’s class at this juncture has been mighty impressive. Sure, there’s still a few months left for things to shake up on the recruiting trail, but as it currently stands, Smart’s first full class is ranked No. 3 nationally, only behind Ohio State and Alabama — two elite recruiting programs.

Without a doubt, LeCounte III is a big reason for that lofty ranking.

He committed to Georgia over a number of national offers, 19 in total. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State were among the notable schools that offered the five-star.

Nationally, LeCounte is ranked as the No. 19 overall recruit in America, another stat that adds to his hype as a recruit. Players such as Ohio State five-star defensive end commit Chase Young, five-star Clemson wideout commit Tee Higgins, five-star Stanford quarterback commit Davis Mills and fellow Georgia commit, four-star defensive end Robert Beal, are all within range of LeCounte.

He’s definitely in good company and among the elite of the elite in the 2017 class.

The numbers for LeCounte trend into the elite category as well.

Though he’s ranked as a safety, he’s a great overall athlete. Case in point? According to 247Sports, during his junior season, he passed for 506 yards and six touchdowns, rushed for 865 yards and seven touchdowns, caught 25 passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns and that’s just on offense. Defensively he notched 100 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles, four fumbles recovered (two taken back for scores) and 10 pass breakups.

And that’s just on defense…

Naturally, LeCounte made an impact as a special teamer as well, returning 10 kicks for 327 yards with one 95-yard touchdown, while returning four punts for 154 yards and a touchdown.

For those keeping track, LeCounte was responsible for 1,852 total yards and 17 touchdowns his junior year. Complete stats for him so far in 2016 are hard to find, but so far Maxpreps has him down for 31 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, one touchdown pass, six touchdown receptions, one kickoff returned for a touchdown and one punt returned to the house.

Is it any surprise that he’s been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American bowl in his senior season? It shouldn’t be.

LeCounte III is an elite recruit and he projects to be an elite player for UGA. He’s a game-changer, a program-changer and Smart’s most important recruit — right off the bat.

Richard LeCounte III a monumental commit for Kirby Smart
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