ATHENS — Kirby Smart has prodded safety Richard LeCounte like no other player.
The junior safety wouldn’t have it any other way.
Fact is, LeCounte was Smart’s first recruit as Georgia head coach, and the former 5-star prospect from Riceboro appreciates the attention to detail he receives.
Most recently, Smart has taken to referring to LeCounte as “Rat Trip Richard.”
It’s a reminder to his star pupil that he needs to manage his responsibilities and pay attention to his keys first and foremost.
“You know how Coach Smart explains it as ‘Rat Trap Richard,’ “ LeCounte said smiling, “it’s been me trying to farm other people’s land.”
LeCounte, Smart said, has learned how to manage his responsibilities on each play and become much more responsive to coaching.
“Yeah, Richard is much wiser, he’s much more coachable,” said Smart, himself an All-SEC safety during his playing career with the Bulldogs.
“He understands that he’s in pursuit of excellence, not perfection, and there’s a difference. I think that as he grows, he can help younger players in that room realize that you’re not going to be perfect, but we are in pursuit of excellence.”
LeCounte has been transparent about his weaknesses and the areas he needs to shore up.
The Bulldogs’ leading tackler last season, LeCounte knew he needed to bulk up this offseason to become an even more effective tackler this season.
“I feel a lot stronger going in there with those big old hogs down there,” LeCounte said. “I have a lot of confidence in my tackling ability now, I’m ready to attack the ball more and get a lot more pass deflections in the secondary.”
Smart said he has more confidence in his secondary as a whole, and that’s part of why UGA is running a more aggressive scheme.
LcCounte has much to do with that, and the confidence has spread throughout a defensive backs group that believes it’s an elite unit.
“I think our DB unit is one of the best in the nation,” LeCounte said. “We recruit guys that came here that are ready to play ball immediately.
“We have higher expectations, because if the ball gets behind us they score, so I think we’re one of the best in the nation.”