UGA Football

Smart says patience needed for LeCounte, Gibbs since they're 'in a growing stage'

By Jason Butt

Richard LeCounte III during a Georgia practice.
Richard LeCounte III during a Georgia practice. Georgia Sports Communications

As Kirby Smart sees it, Richard LeCounte III and Deangelo Gibbs still have a lot of learning to do.

As freshman early enrollees, both are being inundated with a lot of new football concepts they’re not used to seeing. But as these two defensive backs continue the learning process throughout the spring, it is evident Smart sees a lot of potential in what they could one day accomplish.

And that is likely why Smart has been tough on LeCounte and Gibbs. The Georgia head coach even said he probably should dial it back some considering both players are still in the learning stages.

“How I feel about them, they’re in a growing stage,” Smart said. “I’ve got to be more patient with them. I obviously have high expectations for them, and they have high expectations for themselves. But they’re not where they need to be yet. They’ve got a lot of meeting to do, and we’ll work with them because I think both of them can be good players.”

Smart said Gibbs has been practicing 70 to 80 percent of his reps at the star position, which is Georgia’s nickel defender. During the lone practice reporters were able to see 11-on-11 drills, Gibbs received first-team reps at the spot.

Gibbs, however, isn’t penciled in as a starter as Smart previously said former Peach County standout Tyrique McGhee is the frontrunner for the starting star spot. But given Gibbs’ size, speed and athleticism, he is a fit to guard either the small, shifty slot receiver or the fleet-footed tight end who splits out.

LeCounte opened spring practice getting some work at cornerback but has since moved back to safety, his projected position coming out of high school. LeCounte is also receiving reps at star, giving the five-star prospect cross-training at each defensive back position.

“The good thing is the early enrollees are in and pretty much getting the playbook down pat,” safety Dominick Sanders said. “They’ve got more studying to do, but the main thing is seeing those young guys fly around and make plays in spring ball.”

Sanders has been impressed with how his understudies have approached spring practice. He told LeCounte and Gibbs to make sure they learn each of the defensive back positions since there could be a game situation where they are asked to play somewhere other than their primary spot.

When Sanders began his career at Georgia, he started out as a star defender before moving to safety. Knowing more is a great way to get on the field sooner, Sanders noted.

“Those guys are guys who pay attention in meetings and do what they got to do on and off the field,” Sanders said. “The main thing is keeping them focused, letting them know they’ve got to keep their eyes on the playbook. They time they get off they got to study the playbook. I tell them all the time, don’t worry about mistakes, that’s what we meet for, to get right from those mistakes. And then the next practice, improve from those mistakes you made.”

As these two defenders continue learning the nuances of the college game, Smart said he’s excited to see how they develop over time.

“There’s a lot of information out there, it’s going fast,” Smart said. “We practice fast at a high tempo. They’ve got guys above them that know what to do. But both of them can run. Both of them can strike a lick. Both of them are competitors. They’re not far away from being able to lead, being able to help on special teams, being able to compete. I like watching those two guys, I love coaching them. I sit in the meeting room, I can coach them every second. I feel they have a chance to help our team.”