football Edit

Wednesday post-practice notebook

Richard LeCounte is proud of his "hit stick" given out weekly by Mel Tucker.
Richard LeCounte is proud of his "hit stick" given out weekly by Mel Tucker. (Radi Nabulsi)

Georgia's "Hit Stick" a hit for LeCounte

You’ve probably seen Georgia’s “Savage” pads, the gold-plated spiked shoulder pads given to defensive players after making a key play.

That’s not the only “award” being handed out these days for the Bulldogs.

Introducing the “Hit Stick.”

The brainchild of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the Hit Stick is an actual baseball bat, which is given out weekly to the player who makes the biggest tackle during the course of the previous week’s game.

“You get a bat, you’re a bad man,” said sophomore safety Richard LeCounte, who got to keep the bat for a week following a key stick in Georgia’s win at South Carolina.

According to LeCounte, the actual bat was originally his, that is, before Tucker needed a prop to serve as one of the team’s weekly awards.

“The coaches give it out,” LeCounte said. “Although it’s my bat.”

LeCounte recently added his own artistic flair to the bat by painting it black. "I love it, as you can see,” said LeCounte, who along with the rest of Georgia’s secondary, figures to be tested by Missouri and quarterback Drew Lock.

The “hit stick” will be making the trip. “Definitely,” LeCounte said “The hit stick is going wherever I go.”

No dominant player, but inside backers holding their own

There’s no Roquan Smith, but Kirby Smart likes what he’s seen from his core group of inside linebackers: Monty Rice, Juwan Taylor, Natrez Patrick and Tae Crowder.

“There are four guys who've played consistently. If there was a dominant player, he'd play more,” Smart said. “Juwan's the guy who has probably been playing the most,” Smart said. “Natrez is playing more and more, trying to bring Channing (Tindall) along. Monty played good last game. Tae's got to continue to improve and help us.”

Smart indicated the rotation will continue.

“Those guys are by-committee, that's what they are,” Smart said. “Y’all keep trying to make it be more than it is. It's just four or five guys who are in the same area, and if we can have fresh guys out there and they play well, we're going to do it. If one of them is not playing to the standard, they won't do it."

Substitution penalties irk Smart

One area of concern overlooked in Saturday’s big win over Middle Tennessee was the fact the Bulldogs committed a number of substitution mistakes, errors that Smart said could cost the team if they continue to occur.

For example:

"Just not having the right people on the field. We came out of a timeout and had ten men on the field. That's not usually a good sign,” Smart said. “It was some confusion between what they were in, and you guys don't know what goes into what the other team's in, so sometimes we don't get the right information and we don't make the right decisions but you can't, as a coach, ever excuse having 10 people on the field, more or less when you come out of a timeout.”

Late in the game, the Bulldogs were flagged when Ahkil Crumpton and Quay Walker—both No. 25—ran onto the field for the kickoff. The Dawgs were penalized five yards.

“I've seen that cost people games,” Smart said. “That's not something we should have, but there were other substitution errors as well. We've got to do a better job of it.”

Smart concerned about freshmen hitting the wall

Freshmen have played an integral role for the Bulldogs through three games, but Smart said the hard part now is to keep his young players from hitting an early wall.

For some, it’s already happened.

“Oh yeah. Some of these kids have daily walls. Every day it’s a struggle because of the focus and concentration, the intensity of practice. There are a lot of high school practices that aren’t like ours from a standpoint of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—the intensity, the amount of pressure you put on a kid to make decisions, to make calls,” Smart said. “They’re not used to that. We have a high-tempo practice. So, a lot of kids struggle with it, and you hope they acclimate. And the older players on the team have to bring the younger players along, because a lot of the older players weren’t used to it their first year.”

Nineteen of the 23 scholarship freshmen who qualified after signing February have played so far with the Bulldogs.

“I think anytime you get to play, it gives you the motivation to have more success,” Smart said. “But we have to grow these young players up in practice. Because they’re getting way more reps in practice than they’re getting in games. And the only way to do that is to get them to grow in practice and to buy into that. And we’ve tried to do that.”

This and that

. . . Safety J.R. Reed was not seen at practice, but a source tells me that the junior is suffering from an illness and is expected to play.

. . . Running back D’Andre Swift appeared to be moving better in practice than he has in the previous two days.

. . . Left tackle Andrew Thomas (sprained left ankle) was back at practice for the second straight day, although he was not observed taking part in any drills during the media’s allotted 11 minutes.