Georgia is in pursuit of a highly-regarded defensive prospect, and his change of plans will have him back in Athens for Saturday.
Four-star inside linebacker Leonard Warner Jr., out of Brookwood High School, is one of the Bulldogs’ priority targets for the Class of 2017, and will be attending the Tennessee game Saturday.
As the in-state target heads to Athens in just a few days, Warner discussed his areas of focus while taking an unofficial visit, and it’s all about enjoying another trip to Georgia.
"I’ve been up there a lot, 10 or 15 times, so there’s not much more for me to learn or experience about the campus itself," Warner said. "I just want to go up there, spend time with the coaches while showing a face and go up there to have a good time and watch a good game."
Originally, Warner planned to take an official visit to Stanford but schedule complications made him postpone the visit to the West Coast.
"When Stanford is at home, I’m playing, and they’re away when I have a free weekend to travel," Warner said. "I definitely plan to visit the university before I commit, because I definitely have interest."
Warner said that his SAT scores meet Stanford’s academic requirements and he obtains an official offer.
With the prerequisites to attend Stanford behind him, he was able to discuss why heading to the other side of the country would be in his favor. As academics and athletics blend together when his choice is made, Warner believes Stanford comprises the best of both opportunities, playing with a highly-regarded football program as well as prestige within the classroom.
"If I were to go to Stanford, it’d be exactly the opposite of my thoughts of staying close to home," Warner said. "The opportunity to have a fresh new start and make new friends is very attractive as well. And academically, the school speaks for itself. I would have a big opportunity with a great degree and networking if I chose to go there. The football team is also improving every year, so there’s no big drop-off athletically if I were to go there."
Academics serve as the focus for the Warner family. While a decision lies ahead as to where Warner will continue his playing career, he said it goes beyond football and looking ahead to a future career is of the utmost importance, giving reason as to why the academic opportunities are examined first.
In addition to playing for a team in a conference of prestige like the SEC and being led by a young coaching staff, Warner believes that Georgia offers academic promise and especially within his major of choice.
"Georgia was the first school to offer me, so that’s special," Warner said. "It’s also close to home, and that’s awesome. Importantly, they offer the major I want as Georgia’s engineering school is growing every year. The school’s average GPA is improving yearly and that means a lot to me."
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his staff have visited the Warner family multiple times, and have discussed the future with a player they hope to land. Warner said they’ve discussed a few things with him that are of importance to him.
With depleted depth at his position, Warner believes it leaves an opening for him to play early if he is to make his way to Georgia.
"The coaching staff has discussed the aspect of playing close to home and having my friends come watch my games when they’re recruiting me," Warner said. "They also tell me I’d have a chance to play early. It’s a spot where Georgia is going to need some help in the coming years, so they believe I’ll have a chance to be an important part of the defense."
In addition to Georgia and Stanford, Warner has some exemplary academic programs at the top of his list as his top five is rounded out by Georgia Tech, Duke and Florida State.
All five of Warner’s final contenders seem to have a favorable chance of landing the 6-foot-4, 226-pound linebacker as he spoke highly of each program and they all fit his needs. Warner elaborated a bit more on Georgia Tech as they offer a different window of opportunity.
The Yellow Jackets are another in-state opportunity for Warner, and with their engineering program as the university’s staple, becoming a Bulldogs rival also lies on the table for the soon-to-be Brookwood graduate.
"For Georgia Tech, the engineering school is attractive," Warner said. "Also, (defensive coordinator Ted) Roof is a coach that’s very close to me. He keeps in contact a lot and always tries to check up on my family. He’s a real genuine guy, and that serves as a big plus."
Leonard Warner Sr., the father of the Bulldogs target, echoes his son’s words on the factors that go into the right decision.
The elder Warner understands the accolades achieved by his son, and realizes that success can be had at the next level. Warner ranks as the ninth overall inside linebacker nationally, and the 22nd overall prospect in the state of Georgia, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. But while football could be what makes the money for the younger Warner, his father understands that a playing career could end at any given moment.
With the younger Warner planning to announce his commitment by the end of October, they plan to take a couple of visits, focusing on Stanford -- if the family is able to coordinate a schedule -- in addition to Ohio State.
"We want him to go where he will grow the most," Warner’s father said. "Football is so abrupt, so we look beyond that and academics is a major focus. His contenders are all good fits academically, so it'll just come down to where he feels he can succeed the most beyond football.
"It comes down to the people. Once you get past the first visit, where you see the facilities, it's all about who you'll be working with. At Florida State, we chose an easier game just so we could spend more quality time with the people affiliated with the university. Truthfully, we spent more time with the academic advisers on a Sunday than the coaches, nearly five hours. It's all a business, and it boils down to life past football."