Liberty County’s LeCounte gets first-team looks as UGA adjusts secondary

ATHENS, Ga. — Before most of the buses pulled up to the east side of Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon to unload players for Georgia’s second preseason scrimmage, senior cornerback Malkom Parrish emerged from a vehicle using crutches to help him get around on the left foot that required surgery after he injured it in practice earlier this week.

 

Parrish sustained a “small” broken bone in the foot, coach Kirby Smart said afterward, putting his status in doubt early in the season, including the Sept. 2 opener against Appalachian State.

“We think he could be back really from the next two to four weeks,” Smart said. “We don’t how long it’s going to be. He has not been ruled out for the opener, but we’ll see how it goes day to day. He had surgery to repair it and we hope to get him back as soon as possible.”

The scrimmage was held two weeks before the Bulldogs kick off their second season under Smart.

Smart had voiced his concern this spring about the lack of scholarship defensive backs in the second unit, but the arrival of seven freshmen in the secondary changed that. He spoke earlier this preseason about a big drop-off from the experienced players to the newcomers.

Now he will need to tap into the young guys if Parrish – who started 25 games the last two seasons when he made 91 tackles – is out for games at the start of the season.

“It’s not doomsday,” Smart said. “We could sit around and cry and whine about it. But it’s not a position we’re real deep at right now. It’s not a great situation but that’s what football is, guys. In football, you’re going to have injuries and you have to overcome them.”

The Bulldogs might call on a highly-regarded freshman for a starting spot if Parrish can’t go.

Richard LeCounte, the five-star recruit from Liberty County, was getting first-team safety looks with Dominick Sanders on Saturday.

Senior Aaron Davis moved to cornerback to work opposite junior Deandre Baker with Tulsa transfer J.R. Reed at star nickel back. Davis, sophomore Tyrique McGhee and freshman Deangelo Gibbs remain other star options.

LeCounte, an early enrollee, has shown improvement from the spring.

“He’s gotten a lot of better,” Smart said. “He started the spring in what I call a rat trap, all over the place. He runs anywhere and does anything. You never knew what he was going to do. And now I think he understands 50 to 60 percent. And we’ve got to get him to about 90 to 100 because the guy lining up next to him usually can tell him what to do with the ones. He didn’t have that luxury with the twos. So when he gets to go with the ones, which we did with a lineup that he was in … he does pretty good. When he has to make all the decisions, he struggles sometimes. He’s growing up. He practices hard, and he’s physical. I’m glad he was here in the spring so he could be where he is now.”

Three other freshmen were working in the two-deep in the secondary in early drills: Gibbs, cornerback Eric Stokes and safety Latavious Brini. Freshmen cornerbacks Ameer Speed and Williams Poole were also mentioned by Smart as competing for snaps.

“We have to coach them up because we don’t have Malkom right now,” Smart said. “ … That’s what football is. It’s about a guy getting an opportunity to step up and make some plays.”

The defense has some costly pass interference penalties in the scrimmage that Smart called “a little bit sloppy” due to penalties, but he was pleased with how the team handled the heat a week after he was disappointed in that.

“We had a lot more energy on both sides of the ball,” Smart said of the closed scrimmage that was about 130 plays.

The starting offensive line continues to be left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Pat Allen, center Lamont Gailliard, right guard Solomon Kindley and freshman Andrew Thomas at right tackle.

“I think we rotated a little at left tackle to make sure Isaiah (Wynn) got some time out, because if we lost him that’s probably the toughest loss we could deal with,” Smart said. “We rotated the guards, kind of in a triangle there between Solomon, Allen and Kendall Baker.”

Starting quarterback Jacob Eason improved from the first scrimmage, Smart said.

“I thought he threw the ball down the field a little better,” Smart said. “I thought he was a little more accurate than the last scrimmage, but so was (Jake) Fromm. … I don’t think that’s a reflection of Malkom not being out there. I think it was a reflection of the quarterbacks and the receivers being on the same page a little more.”

 

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