ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia football free safety Richard LeCounte lll smiled when asked about how coach Kirby Smart has put him under the microscope this offseason.
“Hearing feedback from Coach Smart, positive or negative, it’s always something I can learn from,” LeCounte said Tuesday after practice. “If I couldn’t take it, I wouldn’t be here.”
Smart, a former All-SEC safety at Georgia himself, refuses to lower the bar on the talented LeCounte.
“I’m really just about the process with Richard,” Smart said following Saturday’s scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
“Did you look at the right thing and did you do it right? If you do that, you’ll be successful, wheres he thinks about, ‘did I get an interception, did I get a tackle?’ That’s not the important thing at safety.
“The important thing is, did you look at the right thing, did you do the right thing [because] If you don’t it can cost us dearly, and I’ve repeated to him over and over that it’s not your job to make those plays, it’s your job to do your job.”
LeCounte understands there are some tendencies he needs to overcome.
“I see myself gambling at times, that right there is something I have to work on, and that’s part of the learning process,” LeCounte said. “I’m just a small piece of this big puzzle, and Coach Smart is taking the time for me, and that’s a sign he cares.”
Fans of the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs know just how costly a broken assignment can be in the secondary, needing only reflect back to the game-deciding second-and-26 touchdown pass.
LeCounte wasn’t on the field for that play, but he said he has taken stock of what happened.
LeCounte, from Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Ga., is one of 21 players that received a 5-star rating as a high school prospect.
Further, he holds the distinction of being the first prospect to commit to Smart once the Bulldogs coach took over the program.
Smart wants LeCounte to commit again, in the sense of committing to do things the right way.
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said at the start of fall camp he felt good about LeCounte’s offseason.
“Richard has a much better grasp of the defensive scheme at this point, really with the details,” Tucker said. “He spent a lot of the offseason studying.
“We’ll see how he goes in this fall camp, but I think the arrow is up with him.”
Smart, however, was not as impressed in the practices that followed.
“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 seemed to win back some trust in the opening scrimmage, however.
“He didn’t give up any big plays, but he didn’t make any big plays,” Smart said, “so that might be the best he’s done yet, because I’m looking for a level of consistency.”
LeCounte said he plans on delivering.
“It’s been a learning experience, something I look forward to every day, getting hard coaching, coming in here developing my mind and body,” LeCounte said. “It’s coaching. I’d be mad if he wasn’t coaching me hard.”