ATHENS, Ga. — Kirby Smart, who coached defensive backs at Alabama, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Valdosta State, and played safety at Georgia, is keeping close tabs this spring on two of his prized freshmen in the secondary.
The Georgia coach makes sure to take a meeting room seat close to Deangelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte.
“I like watching those two guys out there, I love coaching them,” Smart said. “I sit by them in the meeting and I coach ‘em every second because I feel like they have a chance to help out the team.”
Both were top-50-rated overall prospects nationally by the 247Sports Composite for 2017.
“I really like their competitiveness,” senior safety Aaron Davis said. “The things that they do know, execute it well and just play fast.”
Gibbs is competing for the starting star nickel back position with sophomore Tyrique McGhee. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Grayson High product is working at star up to 80 percent of the time, Smart said, while also getting cornerback reps.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound LeCounte, from Liberty County, has spent the past two practices working as a safety while getting some work at the star. He also practiced at cornerback earlier this spring.
“They’re in a growing stage, they’re in a learning stage,” Smart said. “I’ve got to be more patient with them because I obviously have high expectations for them and they have high expectations of themselves, but they’re not where they need to be yet.”
The high-tempo college practices means there’s a lot to take in for players who enrolled early after graduating from high school in December. They’re competing in a secondary that includes four returning starters.
“I tell them all the time, ‘Don’t worry about mistakes, that’s what we meet for,’” safety Dominick Sanders said.
“’The next practice, come out and improve on the mistakes you made the previous practice.’”
Their talent can be seen through the freshmen miscues, so they should find their way onto the field, whether in the secondary or special teams.
“Both of them can run, both of them can strike a lick,” Smart said. “Both of them are competitors.”