ATHENS — There’s a certain pride that comes with being a Georgia defensive player under Kirby Smart, and senior Richard LeCounte represents everything about it.
LeCounte was Smart’s first commitment after he took over as head coach, and he has turned him into his own personal Frankenstein.
LeCounte is a monster on defense, an All-American safety with instincts and playmaking skills like few others, and a magnetic personality that rallies teammates around him to be at their best.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) June 17, 2020
As such, LeCounte brings confidence to the field each time he dons the pads.
“We try to keep the other team under 13, that’s our goal,” LeCounte said following Tuesday’s practice. “Try to stop those guys from having any explosives and making sure our havoc rate is going up every game.”
LeCounte’s No. 3-ranked Georgia team plays at No. 2 Alabama at 8 p.m. on Saturday night with those same goals in mind.
It’s nothing personal, LeCounte explained, but team goals are team goals regardless of the opponent. Event if it’s an Alabama offense that leads the nation with 51 points per game.
Perhaps defensive coordinator Dan Lanning could make an exception for a Tide team leading the nation with 51 points per game?
Like maybe 13 points per half?
“Our score total is 13, it’s always going to be 13, no matter who we play,” LeCounte said, asked if Georgia might adjust its goal for the Saturday night showdown.
“That’s no disrespect to the other team, but it’s just something we have within ourselves as a goal for our defense.”
LeCounte has a history with Alabama, having played in the two most recent classics, the 35-28 Tide win in the 2018 SEC Championship Game, and the 26-23 overtime loss in the 2017 College Football Playoff title tilt.
Even before then, LeCounte had a personal run in with Tide receiver DeVonta Smith in the U.S. Army All-American Game.
— Rivals (@Rivals) January 3, 2017
It’s four years later, and LeCounte is still pushing receivers around, and Smith is still dominating defensive backfields, as he has done since catching the game-winning pass in the 2017 national title game.
Smith said Tuesday he knows what to expect from LeCounte and the Bulldogs.
“They are a very physical defense, they run to the ball, they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” said Smith, himself once a UGA commit. “They have a lot of movement.
“So really, just you have to be on key, and everybody has to do their job, and it’s not going to be an easy game.”
LeCounte has taken note of Alabama’s success. Most recently, he studied film of the Tide scoring touchdowns on nine of 11 drives against Ole Miss last Saturday.
“Out of the 9 of 11, one of them was a fumble on the 1-yard line, so it could have been 10 out of 11,” LeCounte said. “My outlook is those guys were going fast, a lot of different things going on at once.
“It just seemed like things got a little overwhelming. That’s something here at Georgia we pride ourselves on keeping our composure and keeping things in front of us, and making sure we play the next play like it’s our last play.”
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 10, 2020
LeCounte oozes leadership and motivation at each turn.
“We are going to make sure we keep things basic, and check all the boxes and make sure we’re the defense Georgia has been known for the last four or five years,” LeCounte said. “Bolting our feet down in the ground and making teams go the long and hard way, that’s something we pride ourselves on.
“It’s 11 guys to the ball every time the ball is being snapped. It’s 11 guys playing together, that’s something that you can always count on coming from this Georgia defense.”