When he was asked about what allowed Georgia junior defensive lineman Tyler Clark to play so well down the stretch last season, junior defensive lineman Julian Rochester snapped his fingers twice.
“He was just hot,” Rochester told reporters Monday. “That’s how he’s always been. Tyler turns it on, man, he’s always been like that. He’ll just take over an entire game with his athleticism and physical nature.”
Clark did indeed end the 2017 campaign on a hot streak. Of his three career games with a personal-best five tackles, two came in the College Football Playoff against Oklahoma and Alabama. In the Rose Bowl against the Sooners, Clark added a sack and two tackles for loss.
Heading into the 2018 season, it’s up to Clark, as well as other Georgia defenders who will replace the numerous departures on that side of the ball, to play that way more often. As Rochester put it, it’s about “claiming consistency.”
Rochester said consistency is one of the hallmarks of a good defensive line. He said it all starts with how physical a typical practice is.
“We hit all through the week, we hit on each other, we bang on each other,” Rochester said. “That’s just the mindset that we always have, so when we get into the game it’s easy. That’s the best part about it.”
Another Bulldog looking to increase his level of consistency is defensive back Richard LeCounte. The sophomore, who played in 10 games last season and appears to have as good of a shot as anyone at starting at safety this season, was mentioned by head coach Kirby Smart Tuesday as a player that needs to be less mercurial on the practice field.
“He makes some of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen, and then he makes some of the most boneheaded plays,” Smart said.
Smart went on to say that LeCounte is one of his favorite players to coach and he believes LeCounte loves to practice. But right now, the high level of play isn’t always there.
“We have to play within a system and play with discipline,” Smart said. “You have to do your job. If your job’s to play the half (of the field), you’ve got to play the half. That’s what we’re working with Richard on.”
With the start of the season still over three weeks away, there’s still plenty of time for Clark and LeCounte, as well as the rest of the Bulldogs, to achieve the level of consistency the coaching staff would like to see. So far in fall camp, though, they’re not quite there yet.
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.