ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has the bar set high for former 5-star recruit Richard LeCounte lll, and that’s clearly not going to change.
If anyone knows how important it is for a safety to be assignment sound and play disciplined football, it’s Smart, a former All-SEC performer at the position during his playing career with the Bulldogs.
Add in the tragic second-and-26 breakdown at the safety position that may have cost Georgia a national championship, and Smart is understandably sensitive.
“We have to play within a system, we have to play with discipline, (and) you have to do your job,” Smart said in the final practice leading up to Thursday afternoon’s workout.
“If your job is to play the half, you got to play the half, and that’s what we’re working with Richard on.”
The No. 4-ranked Georgia football team has very little margin for error if it’s to meet expectations and repeat at SEC champions.
One breakdown on defense can mean 6 points in a hurry. That notion is especially true at safety, where gifted athletes like LeCounte are most often the last line of defense.
Lack of focus
Smart questioned if LeCounte takes the responsibilities of being assignment sound on a consistent basis seriously enough in spring drills.
“I don’t know if Richard knows what it takes to be good, like the demands it takes, the study it takes, the seriousness it takes,” Smart said during the spring. “He’s a very talented young man, but he’s got to meet the demands the position requires, which is come in, learn, make the calls, make the decisions.
“Sometimes I don’t know if he wants that responsibility on him. We certainly are counting on him and we are continuing to coach him until he gets it.”
Somewhat surprisingly, LeCount’s inability to carry out assignments consistently have carried over into fall drills.
Smart’s message after Tuesday’s practice did indeed strike a similar note — but the Georgia football coach wants to make sure fans understand he’s not picking on LeCounte.
LeCounte was the first player to commit to Smart after he took the job, and that’s something neither coach nor player will ever forget.
“I love Richard; Richard is one of my favorite players to coach …. I think Richard loves to practice, he loves football as much as anybody out there,” Smart said. “But he has to do things consistently in order to be successful, and right now he’s not doing things consistently.
“Has he made some phenomenal plays, yes. Is he talented, yes.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was complimentary of LeCount last Saturday.
“Richard has a much better grasp of the defensive scheme,” Tucker said. “He spent a lot of time in the offseason studying and I’ve seen his overall maturity level improve. We’ll see how far he goes in camp but I think the arrow is up with him.”
Smart said the arrow has been up .… sometimes.
“His arrow’s up, then his arrow’s down, then his arrow’s up, then his arrow’s down,” Smart said. “He makes some of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen, and then he makes some of the most boneheaded plays. There’s not a level of consistency there.”
LeCounte may have been one of the talented players Smart was referring to when he said the Bulldogs had one of the “scariest” situations possible — some of the most talented players not practicing well in fall drills.