DB LeCounte, UGA defense embracing feedback from Kirby Smart

Casey Sykes/The Red & Black

Georgia defensive back Richard LeCounte III (2) celebrates with Georgia strong safety Dominick Sanders after blocking a pass intended for Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Finke during the second half game between Notre Dame and Georgia in South Bend, Indiana, in September 2017.

Kirby Smart hasn’t been shy about name dropping players he believes need to step it up so far in fall practice.

On Aug. 6, Smart mentioned sophomore safety Richard LeCounte as a player that needed to maintain a high level of play in the secondary.

“He makes some of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen, and then he makes some of the most boneheaded plays,” Smart told reporters that day. “I think Richard loves to practice, he loves football as much as anybody out there. But he has to do things consistently in order to be successful.”

LeCounte could have taken Smart’s feedback personally. After all, he was ranked by the 247Sports Composite as a five-star recruit coming out of Liberty County High School as an early enrollee in 2017.

But instead, he embraces the tough love from his head coach.

“Just hearing feedback from Coach Smart, positive or negative, it’s always something I can learn from,” LeCounte said Tuesday. "I’d probably be mad if he wasn’t coaching me hard and stuff like that. It’s a learning experience.”

LeCounte said he’s used to tough coaching, having received plenty of it in high school. That’s helped him not take Smart’s words to heart despite his lofty recruiting status coming into college.

Already, some of what Smart has said has infiltrated into what LeCounte does on the practice field. Smart said LeCounte has to improve playing with discipline within the system on Georgia’s defense. At practice, LeCounte said he has tried to focus on slowing down everything that’s going on around him.

“That’s something that just keeps me going, every day just finding one thing I can work on to help the team in the big picture,” LeCounte said.

Other players on the defense have a similar approach when dealing with criticism from their head coach, who played defense himself in college.

“I don’t really think it’s criticism, I just think he’s doing his job as coaching,” said junior defensive lineman Michael Barnett. “He’s just trying to get us better. We just take it and we learn. It’s not about the tone of what he’s saying, but it’s the message.”

LeCounte said he’s heard from people around him that when a coach singles out a player for criticism, it generally means the coach sees something in that player. With that in mind, he leans into it every day.

“I love hearing feedback from him,” LeCounte said. “If I couldn’t take it, I wouldn’t be here.”

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit www.redandblack.com/sports.

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