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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era
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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

EDITOR'S NOTE: This original Richard LeCounte III story continues a special series in partnership with Georgia Farm Bureau profiling homegrown talent from the state of Georgia. To access the other HomeGrown Talent articles please visit the series hub on DawgNation.com.

The year was 2015. It was a summer night in July. The Mark Richt era was on its last season in Athens.

There was this rising 2017 prospect who kept bounding up and down. He wasn't the biggest cat, but boy could he move. He was so springy.

That young man's name was Richard LeCounte III. He was a "Down South Georgia Boy" prospect if there ever has ever been one. But back then, those guys didn't go play football at the University of Georgia.

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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

LeCounte had the hops and the explosive acceleration. He was often found near rising senior Mecole Hardman, Jr. at that camp. Hardman went on to basically shine as brightly as anyone at that camp that night at both the receiver and cornerback spots.

Those two represented potential glory for Georgia. If the Bulldogs could only start signing guys like those two.

Georgia did. Hardman put in his three years and is already making millions and weekly highlight reels in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs.

LeCounte is still in Athens, but he's currently in a stretch that can be called the best football of his time at Georgia. The program would be lucky to keep him away from Hardman's new league for one more year the way he's playing.

The former 5-star safety tied for the team-best total in tackles (6) against Kentucky. He shadowed future NFL tight end, Kyle Pitts, down in Jacksonville with great success and also had six tackles on that night.

He picked off Missouri last Saturday in the red zone and returned that theft 71 yards. The former Liberty County star might have scored if he didn't have to vault over a teammate on that return.

Those three games came after he managed just one tackle against South Carolina. That was saying something after LeCounte finished his sophomore season with 74 tackles. That led the Bulldogs in 2018.

It was an up-and-down year for LeCounte, though.

He's made sure that the valley against Carolina didn't become another "rat trap" trend.

"The difference between Richard now and then is he's bought in a little more into the understanding of what I have to [do]within this system," Kirby Smart said while describing LeCounte's proper thought process on Monday. "What is my job? I have to make calls and decisions on my side of the field that is critical to our success. I've said after the [Missouri] game that I think in the last two or three weeks he's taken a little more ownership in that."

"He's taken a little more initiative to watch [game] tape and not just think I can go out there and ball. I've got to go understand and play within the defense to make plays and he's doing a better job of that."

That's the present for LeCounte. It is a pretty good one at that.

But it doesn't change the fact he will always be a bookmark recruit of the Kirby Smart era at Georgia.

RELATED: Did you ever know the background story about Richard LeCounte III? He was driving a car at what age?

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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

Richard LeCounte III: When he chose to be a Bulldog

There will be a time when Kirby Smart's first teams come back to celebrate their success between the hedges in Athens. There is already going to be a definite one with that SEC championship team from 2017.

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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

LeCounte was on that team.

When he's taking another dip in the cheers of Sanford Stadium, the astute DawgNation fans will be able to point down to the field or to the Jumbotron and say the following: That was the first big-time recruit to take a chance and invest in Kirby Smart's Georgia.

DawgNation broke the news Smart was hired by Georgia on Dec. 6. That was a Sunday.

Smart earned the commitment from his first 5-star recruit less than a week later. LeCounte wanted to play for a coach like Smart. But he also wanted to play for that winning formula which was firmly in place at Alabama.

But he wanted to do it for Georgia. When Smart was hired, it was all he needed to know. His thoughts about Alabama and Ohio State didn't last much longer than that week.

When he chose Georgia, LeCounte was rated as the nation's No. 1 ATH and the No. 22 overall prospect for 2017. It was just after he finished his junior season.

Smart even flashed some creativity with that "COUNT" reference in his tweet that signaled Georgia just landed a major recruit.

From there, LeCounte was a monster for Georgia on the recruiting trail. He became the type of recruiter that every year fans now wish for another "LeCounte" in that cycle.

He was that future Bulldogs who cared so much and bleeds so much for his home state.

LeCounte's message was simple. He just wanted all of the "Dawgs" in the state to stay home. When he showed up at the Rising Seniors game in Atlanta later that month, he started walking up to guys and calling them Dawgs, too.

He was proclaiming them a part of "SICEM17" before those guys fully realized they were going to sign with Georgia, too.

There was also that time at the "Rising Seniors" game when he lost a tooth, threw it to a defensive coach and never missed a practice rep. It will never be forgotten in the history of that game. When asked about it the next day, it suddenly dawned on him that he never bothered to ask that coach for his tooth back.

LeCounte showed up at the Opening clad in Georgia gear that next February. He even had a Georgia cell phone case.

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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

He did backflips at the Opening finals out in Oregon. LeCounte was working fellow 2017 RB targets, Toniel Carter and D'Andre Swift, on that trip.

Those two both chose Georgia. So did Andrew Thomas that week.

When he visited for the games each week, he celebrated and cheered for his future teammates as very few recruits have done so before.

Or have since.

When December rolled around, he was Santa in a pair of DawgNation "Christmas Commitments" videos.

With the "My Savages" hit from Future playing in the background, he coined the "we ain't done yet" phrase that still stands in the hearts and minds of the Georgie fan base.

It makes a lot of sense to hear Smart say those things about LeCounte now. That's because he has been constantly evolving.

Backup and special teamer as a freshman. Full-time starter and leading tackler in 2018. Yet with that, he showed his passion and aggressiveness a little too much in 2018.

It might have been he had too much of that "Hit Stick" he always carried with him as a talented and passionate kamikaze defender a year ago.

Those big hits are still there now, but so is the realization he has to be a full-time safety net or an eraser to cover his teammates more for a unit that is putting up some special weekly performances in 2019.

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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era

Looking back, straight ahead and looking forward

When he was on campus that first year, he laid a lot of bricks for the 2017 class in Athens. That one, his class, finished No. 3 overall in the 247Sports Team Composite ratings.

But what was that phrase that LeCounte liked to say on the trail? Well, he had a "we ain't done yet" for the 2018 class, too.

He once spoke to a group that included Justin Fields, Kearis Jackson, Jamaree Salyer and Zamir White, among others. The phrase "national championship" was used while the future core of the 2018 class was on campus, too.

"I guess there was like I don't know maybe 15 guys in the room," Fields said back in 2017. "He was just like If we get all you guys then we definitely have a shot at winning a national championship while we are here."

That line caught some ears.

"Then he said If you come in here there might be a guy above you on the depth chart that's pretty good but every day in practice we're going after each other and making each other better,'" Fields said. "He said We're going 100 percent and full-throttle' in his message to us."

Shooters do like to shoot. LeCounte is one of those.

"I told them that we needed all of those guys to stay home or come here," LeCounte said after the Rose Bowl win in 2018. "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."

This seems the perfect time to catalog all the marquee moments for LeCounte in Athens. He's already experienced quite a lot.

  • He enrolled early in January of 2017 as part of Smart's first big class. There was that big reception at the UGA basketball game.
  • Georgia beat Notre Dame in Notre Dame that fall
  • The Bulldogs rolled Florida in 2017
  • Georgia won the SEC championship and the Rose Bowl during his freshman year
  • The Bulldogs played for their first national title since 1980
  • The two memorable games with Alabama where the Bulldogs stood toe-to-toe in the reigning dynasty in college football
  • Georgia now has two straight SEC East titles and three straight wins over Florida

It means a lot for LeCounte to have been a part of this renaissance of the Georgia program.

"It is something special man," he said last month. "Every day I thank God for being in the position that I am," he said. "I come out there with a great staff. A great group of teammates and I do the thing that I love. I go to school and I play football."

"So it is always a blessing when I wake up in the morning."

There has been a flurry of moments with DawgNation for LeCounte. Can he even believe that his first three years at Georgia have included all of that?

"I couldn't even imagine things like that and it happening back then," he said. "I'm so blessed to be here with this great group of guys."

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Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era


Georgia's Homegrown Talent: The DawgNation series

The post Homegrown: Richard LeCounte III is a unique placesetter for the Kirby Smart era appeared first on DawgNation.

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Local News

  • Tuesday temperatures will have a decidedly un-December feel, with highs for Athens and northeast Georgia in the low to mid 70s, but forecasters say the Wednesday weather will be much cooler, with the mercury struggling to climb out of the low 50s. There is the chance of near-freezing temperatures by Thursday morning.  From WSB TV… A cold front is moving through north Georgia, bringing isolated rain showers.  Throughout the morning and early afternoon, rain chances increase for metro Atlanta.  Expect falling afternoon temperatures.   There's an opportunity for a wintry mix in the north Georgia mountains Tuesday night.
  • A scholarship at Athens Technical College will be named in honor of Phil Bettendorf: the long-time Athens banking executive who has served as chairman of the Athens Tech Foundation. From the Athens Tech website… The Athens Tech Foundation has honored the service of Phil Bettendorf by naming a new scholarship in his honor. The Phil Bettendorf Business and Education Scholarship will provide financial assistance to students within the Business and Education Division at Athens Technical College. The scholarship will support students in the following programs of study: Accounting, Applied Technical Management, Business Management, Business Technology, Computer Support Specialist, Consumer Economics, Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Care and Education, Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Management, Interior Design, Marketing Management, Networking Specialist, Paralegal Studies, and Social Work Assistant. Over his tenure as Foundation Chairman, the Athens Tech Foundation (ATF) has grown to have over $40,000 available for scholarships each semester. Dr. Andrea Daniel, President of Athens Technical College, stated 'Phil Bettendorf has served in an exceptional manner as the Chair of the Athens Tech Foundation Board. I greatly appreciate the exemplary leadership that Chairperson Bettendorf has provided to support the students and mission of workforce development at Athens Technical College.' Phil Bettendorf joined Synovus in 1994 after a decade in the banking industry. Over the years his responsibilities have included branch operations, business banking, retail banking, strategic planning and facilities management. Phil is a twice named Synovus Chairman’s Award recipient; in 2016 he was named the William B. Turner Humanitarian of the Year and in 2019 was the recipient of the James H. Blanchard Leadership Award. These awards are presented to one individual across the Synovus-wide footprint.
  • Athens-Clarke County Transit is looking for donations of canned and non-perishable foods: the Stuff-a-Bus campaign that began earlier this week continues through Friday, with a Transit bus making stops at various locations around Athens, today at the Library on Baxter Street. Donated food goes to the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank.    From the ACC Government website… Athens-Clarke County Transit is asking to help them ‘Stuff-a-Bus’ to end hunger in Athens this Holiday Season. Benefiting the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank, Athens-Clarke County Transit will host their annual 'Stuff-a-Bus' event during December 9-13. A bus, decked-out for the holidays, will be staged all day at several different locations during the week for people to donate non-perishable food items and help give Athens area families a holiday to remember. Stuff-a-Bus Locations - 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday, December 9: Bells Grocery, 995 Hawthorne Ave. Tuesday, December 10: Athens-Clarke County Library, 2025 Baxter St. Wednesday, December 11: Athens-Clarke County Library, 2025 Baxter St. Thursday, December 12: Classic Center, 300 N. Thomas St. Friday, December 13: Walmart Supercenter, 4375 Lexington Rd. Most needed items: pork and beans canned tomatoes spaghetti sauces canned salmon canned pasta For more information, contact Rachel Hopkins, Athens-Clarke County Transit Marketing Coordinator, at 762-400-6892 or rachel.hopkins@accgov.com
  • A Winder woman gets a 20-year prison sentence, with five of those years to be served behind bars: Amber Lisy was convicted on an assault charge in Madison County.  Police in Gainesville are searching for suspects in the shooting that put a 20 year-old man in the hospital: police say the victim was shot in the back and taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. The shooting happened while the man was in the back seat of a car in the Newtown section of Gainesville. He was, at last report, hospitalized in stable condition.  Police in Flowery Branch arrest a Gainesville man on indecent exposure charges: David Garcia is also accused of inappropriately touching a woman in a parking lot.  A second suspect linked to the summer shooting of a teenager who was shot and killed in Gwinnett County has been indicted by a grand jury in Lawrenceville: there are murder, assault, and robbery charges for 21 year-old Denzel Wilburn. Wilburn and 20 year-old Savion Dillard are charged in the July 1 shooting death of 15 year-old Branden Gerena, who was killed outside a convenience store in Buford.  Four teenagers arrested by Atlanta police on jaywalking charges are now linked to a string of automobile break-ins: they were arrested while darting in and out of traffic in Buckhead. 
  • Valentine Nzengung, a professor of environmental geochemistry in the Department of Geology in the University of Georgia’s Franklin College, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Nzengung becomes eighth UGA faculty member to receive the honor, all of them since 2013. From Michael Terrazas, UGA Today…  Nzengung is the founder and CEO of MuniRem Environmental, which provides remediation products and services for soils and physical sites that have been contaminated by residues from munitions and also for the neutralization and destruction of explosives in support of demilitarization. He has developed multiple sustainable remediation technologies that MuniRem employs in its services. In October 2019, Georgia Trend magazine picked MuniRem as “a trendsetter and planet protector.” The NAI Fellows program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Election to NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. To date, NAI Fellows hold more than 41,500 issued U.S. patents, which the organization says have generated more than 11,000 licensed technologies and companies and created more than 36 million jobs. According to NAI, $1.6 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries. “This is a humbling endorsement of the applied research I have focused on as a faculty member at the University of Georgia,” Nzengung said. “I never thought of the solutions to environmental problems that I have developed as deserving of this very high level of recognition. My focus has been and remains developing and applying innovative solutions that benefit human health and our environment.” The 2019 Fellow class represents 136 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide and collectively hold over 3,500 issued U.S. patents. Among the 2019 Fellows are six recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology & Innovation or U.S. National Medal of Science and four Nobel Laureates, as well as other honors and distinctions. Their collective body of research covers a range of scientific disciplines including neurobehavioral sciences, horticulture, photonics and nanomedicine. “Valentine’s selection as an NAI Fellow is a testament both to his ingenuity and dedication as a scientist and to UGA’s commitment to innovation that benefits the broader world,” said David Lee, vice president for research. “I congratulate him on this honor, and my hope is that he and our other NAI Fellows serve as inspirations to their fellow investigators at UGA.” “My election happened in part because of the enabling environment created by UGA’s administration to foster innovation and academic inventions by its students and faculty,” Nzengung said. “The years ahead at UGA look even more promising for faculty and students engaged in applied research.” The new NAI Fellows will be formally inducted at a ceremony during the NAI annual meeting, to be held April 10, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. Laura Peter, deputy undersecretary of commerce and deputy director at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will keynote the event.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia freshman linebacker Nakobe Dean isn't shy about hitting ball carriers, and he's coming out of his shell as a vocal leader, too. Dean, who most often played on third downs at inside linebacker and finished with 23 tackles and 2 pass break-ups this season, explained one key way he's evolved this season. 'I came in as more of a quiet guy, so I just wanted to feel my way through things,' Dean said following Saturday night's SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 'But as time went by and the season went on, I started to talk more, build my leadership role,' said Dean, a 2019 recruit from Horn Lake, Miss., who was rated a 5-star prospect. 'I do plan on in the future being more of a vocal leader, and also leading by example.' Dean would have been in much better position to do just that if not for the high ankle sprain he suffered early in fall camp. Much had been expected from the 5-foot-10, 220-pound early enrollee after his impressive performance in spring drills. Dean had five tackles and a pass break-up in the G-Day Game, getting snaps with the first-team defense against QB Jake Fromm and the first-team offense back in April. RELATED: Nakobe Dean stands out in G-Day Game Dean did what he could to play through it, learning another valuable lesson along the way. 'It messed with me more so mentally, than physically,' Dean said. 'I had to get my mind right and learn to sit out, but still learn without actually being out there. That was one thing that hindered me.' Physically, Dean said he didn't feel 100 percent until 'Week 5 or Week 6.' Georgia coach Kirby Smart has been high on Dean from the start, so it's a good bet the freshman will get plenty of reps during Georgia's Allstate Sugar Bowl practice, which begins next week. The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play No. 7 Baylor (11-2) at 8:45 p.m. on Jan. 1 in New Orleans. The Bears are looking to become the winningest team in Baylor football history. Dean said he can't speak for what happened last year, when Georgia showed up somewhat divided and uninspired for the Sugar Bowl, falling 28-21 to Texas. 'I didn't practice with the team last year, but I know this team is going to go attack practice the way we always do, 100 percent,' Dean said. 'I feel like we have to continue practice the way do. Don't slack off. Go try to attack the teams the way we always do, and we'll be good.' Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean DawgNation Georgia football League-leading UGA defense shut out on first-team All-SEC Zamir White keeps working hard 3 critical factors with Sam Pittman leaving Georgia staff Georgia favored over Baylor in Sugar Bowl clash Arkansas announces Sam Pittman as next head coach Kirby Smart calm at center of Georgia whirlwind D'Andre Swift discusses limits and pain in SEC Championship The post WATCH: Georgia freshman MLB Nakobe Dean ready to be seen and heard appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football finished the regular season leading the SEC in each of the four major defensive statistical categories, but the Bulldogs failed to have a player named to the Associated Press First-Team defense. Offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and kicker Rodrigo Blankenship are the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs only first-team All-SEC picks. Georgia's second-team picks were tailback D'Andre Swift, offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, center Trey Hill, and on defense, linebacker Monty Rice and cornerback Eric Stokes. Alabama and Auburn each had three first-team All-SEC defensive picks, and Missouri had two. Safety J.R. Reed, one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award and one of five finalists for the Nagurski Award, did not make first or second team All-SEC as selected by the Associated Press. The Bulldogs completed a rare grand slam of leading the league in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense playing a regular-season scheduled that included wins over three Top 15 teams. E ven after the 37-10 loss to LSU, the Georgia defense ranks: No. 1 in the SEC in scoring defense and No. 2 in the nation. No. 1 in the SEC in total defense and No. 4 in the nation. No. 1 in the SEC in rushing defense and No. 3 in the nation. No. 5 in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and No. 15 in the nation. Coach Kirby Smart was asked at the SEC Championship Game press conference about the 'No-Name' nature his defense seemed to have this season, with many overlooking individual talents. ' We play a lot of guys, so it's easy to kind of label it a no-name type defense,' Smart said. 'I think they play so well together, they play so hard, they buy into the game plan, and they're unselfish. 'There's not that dominant personality or dominant player, but there's a lot of good football players that buy into it.' DawgNation Georgia football Zamir White keeps working hard 3 critical factors with Sam Pittman leaving Georgia staff Georgia favored over Baylor in Sugar Bowl clash Arkansas announces Sam Pittman as next head coach Kirby Smart calm at center of Georgia whirlwind D'Andre Swift discusses limits and pain in SEC Championship Jake Fromm makes no excuses after defeat in SEC Championship Game WATCH: Kirby Smart sheds light on LSU, Jake Fromm passing issues Bulldogs stock report, LSU crashes Mercedes-Benz Stadium The post League-leading Georgia defense gets shut out on AP All-SEC First-Team list appeared first on DawgNation.
  • It was bound to happen with Sam Pittman. He is just too good at his job and had always planned to retire in Arkansas one day. That timetable went fast with the strong pull from Arkansas. Pittman has taken the head coaching job at Arkansas in a most uncommon move from position coach to head coach. He makes the move with zero experience as an offensive coordinator or a head coach for that matter. At least outside of the high school or junior college ranks. But he's the sort that can get it done. Pittman will be able to assemble an excellent staff and make SEC Media Days far more interesting going forward. Sam can recruit. Players love him. He will bring an unmistakable attitude to Arkansas football. He knows the landscape & will ha able to put a solid staff together. Big fan of this move. Congrats @CoachSamPittman https://t.co/gTfQWCP81g Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 9, 2019 The big DawgNation questions abound now. Can Georgia keep what was shaping up to be a historic offensive line class together? That doesn't seem likely. Especially given how some of them were so closely tied to Pittman and that long sustained relationship was the reason why they chose Georgia over other elite programs. Pittman also built his classes early. He had his work done months in advance. So that means the Bulldogs haven't had a lot of groundwork with backup plans. The thinking here is the next hire will likely need to have strong relationships built with their own targets to be able to replace any departures with what was set to be the highest-rated overall OL signing class in program history. Let's look at the current Georgia o-line class as a whole and try to anticipate where things stand. We'll assess each of the five commitments with the latest 247Sports Composite rankings. Georgia is now coming up on nine days prior to the first day of the early signing period. The biggest remaining weekend for official and unofficial visitors will be this weekend. 5-star OT Broderick Jones/Lithonia High/Lithonia, Ga. Height/Weight: 6-6/315 Saturday position fit: Left tackle National rankings: Nation's No. 2 OT prospect and No. 19 overall/ Spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 2 out of Georgia's 15 public commitments. Committed since: April 26, 2018 (At least. Was a silent pledge for at least a month prior.) Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here. This should be seen as a decision that now impacts him greatly. He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Auburn, Illinois, South Carolina and Miami. Early enrollee: No. A thing or two to know here: Jones wasn't planning on signing during the early period. But his fondness for Pittman might have eventually swayed him early. Look for him to now go on all his official visits to several schools like Auburn, Miami and South Carolina, among others. The Bulldogs do have a chance to get back in here with a strong replacement hire. The proximity of Georgia and the scope of the program are major draws here. There's really just an unknown here. He's going to likely hit the reset button on everything now. 4-star OT Tate Ratledge/Darlington School/Rome, Ga. Height/Weight: 6-6/325 Saturday position fit: Right tackle National rankings: Nation's No. 3 OT prospect and No. 36 overall Spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 3 out of Georgia's 15 public commitments. Committed since: May 13, 2019 Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here to both Pittman and his overall feeling of a great all-around fit at Georgia. Ratledge has a sense of investment in the program by now. He was at every home game he could attend and was one of the behind-the-scenes leaders of the group. The well-respected prospect is close to a good group of the current class. He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Tennessee and Alabama. Early enrollee: No. A thing or two to know here: Ratledge planned to sign during the early period but not graduate early. He grew up a Tennesse plan but the overall scope of Georgia and the relationship with Pittman was the major factor. He did realize that coaches do come and go even one as uncommonly popular and genuine as Pittman. If the right replacement hire is made, he seems like one of the more likely commits to remain in the Georgia class. He's grown close to QB commitment Carson Beck and RB pledge Kendall Milton. DawgNation has learned that the Pittman news does not affect the strength of their respective commitments to UGA. I will not be answering questions on my current situation. This will stay between me and my family for now. Thank you Tate Ratledge (@tateratledge22) December 9, 2019 4-star Sedrick Van Pran-Granger/Warren Easton/New Orleans, La. Height/Weight: 6-4/305 Saturday position fit: Center National rankings: Nation's No. 3 C prospect and No. 103 overall Spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 7 out of Georgia's 15 public commitments. Committed since: Aug. 7, 2019. Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of his commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here to both Pittman and UGA. But he also liked the location in Georgia as he has already has a lot of family in Georgia or planning to move there. The future graphic design major did love the idea of playing for Pittman, though. He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Early enrollee: No. A thing or two to know here: Van Pran was not expected to sign during the early period. He has always placed the focus on his Warren Easton state championship run ahead of any official visits during his senior season Van Pran-Grainger will now likely take the official visits he told Sam Spiegelman of Rivals.com he was planning on taking anyway. Look for him to give Georgia a new look and it might still work out. But this will be one of the toughest commitments to retain in this class. 4-star Chad Lindberg/Clear Creek High /League City, Tex. Height/Weight: 6-6/320 Saturday position fit: Guard or tackle National rankings: Nation's No. 17 OT and No. 169 overall Spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 9 out of Georgia's 15 public commitments. Committed since: July 28, 2019. Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of his commitment to UGA: Very strong ties here. Pittman was essentially the difference. The distance away from his Texas roots wasn't going to be the easiest move, but the Pittman move now makes Oklahoma and Texas major factors. He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: LSU, Texas, Texas A&M and USC. Early enrollee: No. A thing or two to know here: Incredible academic profile with his AP classes and weighted approximate 5.43 Texas-sized GPA. He will enroll in college as a sophomore with those AP credits and was going to be able to get a master's degree in four years. Arkansas could become a factor here with Pittman and the location fit. .. Could play either guard or tackle in college like Cade Mays has for Georgia. Lots of untapped potential here with this young man. A college weight program will retool his body and added another level to his on-field play. He had already taken all five of his officials. This will also one of the toughest commitments to retain in this current class. Josh Braun/Suwanne High /Live Oak, Fla. Height/Weight: 6-6/335 Saturday position fit: Guard or tackle National rankings: Nation's No. 22 T and No. 285 overall His spot in the class: Rankings place him No. 13 out of Georgia's 15 public commitments. Committed since: June 10, 2019. Ties to Pittman factoring in the overall strength of his commitment to UGA: Pittman was the ace in the hole on a well-researched recruiting march. That said,Georgia fit Braun on many tiers. He wanted to play for a championship-level program but do so at a strong academic institution with an elite strength and conditioning program. Those are all still there at UGA. He chose Georgia over interest in these programs: Florida and South Carolina. Early enrollee: Yes A thing or two to know: There's some faith Georgia can retain Braun, but the timing works against him because he planned to sign during the early period and enroll in January. His two older brothers started for many seasons at Georgia Tech and Texas so his family knows how coaches come and go. Don't let the rankings fool you. DawgNation projects Braun to be as likely to play well in the SEC as any O-line prospect in this class. He's wired for success with his mean streak, size, athleticism and military family background. He politely declined to comment about the move other than to wish Pittman well. .. His decision will be a big piece of keeping the line class together at UGA. Josh Braun on the Pittman move: 'It's a tough process but I am thrilled for coach Pittman and I hope he is successful at Arkansas.' Georgia football: 3 things with the Sam Pittman decision The hasty and reckless thing to do here would be to offer up a prediction. That's because so much will hinge on assurances from Kirby Smart with these young men this week and also a quick replacement with a strong background. The only statement with accuracy to be made here is that this O-line class might stay together if the current other commits keep them in the fold because of the relationships they have already established about looking forward to playing together. That's one way. The other would be if a strong voice in this class like Ratledge or Braun decides they still want to be Bulldogs and this class as a unit still comes in together because they want to be special. Even not playing for Pittman. It will be hard for all of them to find another group of young men with so much potential this late in the game. The boards at other elite programs could only shift slightly at this point to take advantage of this opening with Georgia's line class. With that, there are three other thoughts on the matter. Georgia will hunker down to keep all of this together:The first element to try and keep all of this together would be finding the new O-line coach. The right O-line coach. How quickly does that happen? Especially with the early signing period AND the only major official visit weekend left before that time comes up this weekend. Would make a lot of sense to have the new OL coach in place by then. The confidence point here for DawgNation is that this is recruiting time. That is the one time of the year where Kirby Smart and this staff has done nothing but come up aces in that department. Bet on that to be well-executed. The retention of the draft-eligible players on the current roster:Seems logical to consider that Pittman moving on is a pause button for those Bulldogs who were thinking about going pro or not going pro. This forces them to really look at both sides of this. Maybe even when they thought they had it all figured out.Don't think Thomas and Wilson are in play here. But what about a Ben Cleveland or a Solomon Kindley? Coming back to play for Pittman would have been a consideration. He's close with all of his guys. But coming back to play for a new O-line coach with the thoughts of an NFL future looming? Hmm. It makes the pull to the Sunday league even stronger now. Georgia's offensive identity: If there was ever a time to do something differently with the UGA offense, then this would be the time to look at this month and this week as a crossroads. It was already the time to do it after the LSU loss. Why? That's because the way those last two seasons ended with Alabama. The closure to the 2019 season wasn't like those near-misses with the Tide. Georgia wasn't one player away (Sony Michel or D'Andre Walker injury) or a 2nd-and-26 from being right there as a national championship-level team. It can be a time to look at the Georgia Way in the mirror and see if the offensive identity really needed to consider the changes Nick Saban made after those early decade losses to Auburn's Gus Malzahn. The same thing with Ed Oregon and the rejuvenation of the LSU program. And then there's this new sudden change with Pittman leading the offensive line room. Jim Chaney and Pittman were tied together. Not James Coley and Pittman. It might be a moment of opportunity for a program that was going to have to take a hard look at whether some LSU or Alabama changes need to be made to the way Georgia plans to put points on the board going forward. The post Georgia football: What does the O-line recruiting picture look like now without Sam Pittman? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia coach Kirby Smart is doing his best juggling act with players and coaches coming and going at the most fluid time of the football season. Smart, in four seasons, has built a strong foundation in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall that figures to be tested each season the Bulldogs have success. The price for this season's Top 5 campaign was the loss of offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who built arguably the best offensive line in the nation at Georgia and now heads to Arkansas as a head coach. Smart took his time to replace Mel Tucker when the former defensive coordinator left after the SEC Championship Game last year to become the head coach at Colorado, but he may not have that luxury with his next offensive hire. Particularly if he has any visions of landing another high-profile offensive mind for his staff. Here are three issues that arise out of Pittman leaving he Georgia staff 1. Offensive crossroads Smart oversees the defense and provides a steadying force, Dan Landing a star understudy who himself will likely soon become a head coach. But offense is different, and Smart is at a crossroads of sorts as he considers his next move. Doe Smart make a 'big-name' hire that he could pair with James Coley, and turn the offensive meeting room over to a million dollar assistant? Or does Smart look to maintain control of the framework, and find someone like-minded that will maintain the identity that put Georgia on the doorstep of the 2017 national championship and produced three straight SEC Championship Game appearances? 2. O-Line player attrition We're talking returning players, and we're talking recruiting, because Pittman is a beloved figure who the Georgia offensive lineman rally around. UGA has long known junior Andrew Thomas was leaving for the NFL, as he's a projected Top 10 pick. But for other players who might be on the fence despite appreciably lower draft stock Pittman's departure could play a role. Particularly when they are uncertain of who will be coaching them next season. Juniors Solomon Kindley, Isaiah Wilson and Ben Cleveland would all seem to be in position to benefit from another season at Georgia, but none have committed to returning, or leaving, at this point. Georgia's current crop of commits includes five offensive linemen 33 percent of the class including three who had planned to sign early. 3. Buy-in Smart has had unquestionable buy-in from his players the past two seasons, but with each staff change the chemistry changes. Smart's presence and Lanning's energy has maintained the buy-in on defense. Coley's promotion to replace Jim Chaney was plenty popular with the offensive players, but the disappointing results the second half of the season in conjunction with Pittman's departure threatens the confidence on that side of the football. Pittman, whether he proves to be a successful head coach or not, was a warm and unifying figure in the offensive meeting room. DawgNation Georgia football Zamir White keeps working hard Georgia favored over Baylor in Sugar Bowl clash Arkansas announces Sam Pittman as next head coach Kirby Smart calm at center of Georgia whirlwind D'Andre Swift discusses limits and pain in SEC Championship Jake Fromm makes no excuses after defeat in SEC Championship Game WATCH: Kirby Smart sheds light on LSU, Jake Fromm passing issues Bulldogs stock report, LSU crashes Mercedes-Benz Stadium The post 3 critical Georgia football factors involving Sam Pittman's departure appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia tailback Zamir White just keeps moving the pile on and off the field. White returned to action this season after suffering torn ACL ligaments in his right knee (high school, Nov. 2017) and left knee (UGA fall camp, Aug. 2018). Bulldogs fans, appreciative of the inspiring comeback from injury, have greeted White with cheers of 'ZOOOOOOOOOOOS!' each time he takes the field. Which Georgia running back are you most eager to see carry the ball at Vanderbilt? Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) August 30, 2019 'Georgia fans are great fans, they are huge,' White said after the SEC Championship Game on Saturday night, having turned in a 5-carry performance. 'They supported me through it all.' RELATED: Zamir White explosive in long-awaited return The powerful 6-foot, 215-pound White charged toward the line of scrimmage with the football 60 times for 316 yards this season, scoring touchdowns against Murray State and Arkansas State. White's bulldozing style had its place, though he was quick to admit he's still getting his feel back for running the football. UGA coach Kirby Smart was impressed with White's ability to accelerate through tackles and his improved pass blocking as the season progressed. Still, there was only one game where White exceeded 8 carries. It came in October, when the former Scotland County (N.C.) prep star had a 12-carry, 44-yard performance against South Carolina with Brian Herrien sidelined by back spasms. 'I've just got to be more patient with my runs,' said White, whose style was distinctively North-South with 100 mph velocity hitting the hole. 'The game is moving so fast, you've got to think quick.' White figures to get a lot more work next season with Herrien being a senior and 1,000-yard rusher D'Andre Swift expected to declare for the NFL draft. White said he's up to it, feeling good physically and working hard to keep it that way. ' I get treatment morning, noon, night, always, so my knees are feeling great,' White said. 'I just worked and did what I did to get back, because all I know is hard work and just grinding.' White should get plenty of repetitions and carries during bowl practice and against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in New Orleans. Georgia football RB Zamir White DawgNation Georgia football Georgia favored over Baylor in Sugar Bowl clash Arkansas announces Sam Pittman as next head coach Kirby Smart calm at center of Georgia whirlwind D'Andre Swift discusses limits and pain in SEC Championship Jake Fromm makes no excuses after defeat in SEC Championship Game What's next for Georgia football: Bowl bid, players leaving, staff changes WATCH: Kirby Smart sheds light on LSU, Jake Fromm passing issues Bulldogs stock report, LSU crashes Mercedes-Benz Stadium How LSU beat Georgia in SEC title game, scoring, injuries The post WATCH Georgia RB Zamir White: All I know is hard work and grinding' appeared first on DawgNation.