Three-star Cocoa (Fla.) offensive guard Richie Leonard is set to make his commitment next Friday. However, with just one week to go and seven finalists still under consideration, the 6-foot-2, 320-pounder has a lot of chopping down to do before he makes his announcement.
Inside the Gators caught up with Leonard to find out where his mind is just one week away from the big decision when he will choose between Central Florida, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami and Tennessee.
The Knights are the only non-Power 5 team on Leonard’s list. But, the proximity of UCF to his home in Cocoa is playing a role in his final decision.
“UCF is the home team. It’s 30 minutes away from my house, so I drive over there all the time. They were my second offer and believed in me early on. I love the area and the people.”
With a commitment to the Gators, Leonard would be the next player to head to Gainesville from the Cocoa Pipeline. Two Florida players, Jawaan Taylor and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (both of whom Leonard is close with) recently signed NFL contracts, which is not lost on the 2020 prospect. He unofficially visited Florida days after his offer. However, in the game of recruiting, timing can be everything.
“Florida came in the game kinda late, they were actually my last offer. However, I’ve got some former teammates that went to UF and played their so they’re kinda in my ear a little bit, but again, they got in the game later than others.”
Leonard received his offer from FSU the same day the Hurricanes offered him. While Miami has family ties for the 2020 prospect, the Seminoles have their own ties for a chance to get him.
“Florida state is a historical program and a great place to play college football. I grew up an FSU fan and my dad is a huge FSU fan. I’ve got a great relationship with Coach [Willie] Taggart, we talk on the phone multiple times a week.”
Leonard took his first of just three official visits to see the Yellow Jackets in action. Georgia Tech is the only school on his final list that is not in-state or an SEC team. However, this break from the mold could bode well on July 5th.
“Georgia Tech is just different; the atmosphere and vibe around the program is unlike any other in the country. Coach [Brent] Key is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, and Coach [Geoff] Collins is a real cool down to earth dude. Not to mention, I love the city of Atlanta.”
Kentucky is an x-factor for Leonard because he pledged his commitment to the Wildcats in 2018 before backing off in April of this year. Kentucky also earned one of the aforementioned three official visits he took.
“Kentucky is an amazing place. I love Coach [Mike] Stoops and Coach [John] Schlarman. I love Lexington and my parents love Lexington just as much. I think I’ve visited UK more than any other school, I’ve been there five times and only one was an official visit. I’m very consistent with UK, getting the same feeling every time I go there and the same message from the coaching staff every time. I just love it”
After offering Leonard in February, he took one documented unofficial to Coral Gables. Since then, the buzz seems to have died down on the Hurricanes, but two types of relationships are keeping them in it.
“I love Coach Barry, the offensive line coach. He’s coached in the NFL, so he knows what it takes to get there. And of course, I was born down there, my mom grew up there, and my family still lives there.”
The Volnteers seemed to have gained traction on the tail-end of Leonard’s recruitment. After receiving an offer in February of this year, he took two visits: one unofficial for the Spring Game just before de-committing from Kentucky and his third and final official visit.
“Tennessee was the last official visit I went on, which definitely helped them out a lot. I’ve been up there twice. Neyland Stadium is one of the coolest places to play college football, I’ve got a great relationship with the coaching staff, and I’ve got an even better relationship with the players. I kinda just ‘fit in’ up there.”