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Richard LeCounte has been awesome for UGA this season.

Why Richard LeCounte is the real breakout player for Georgia’s 2018 team

Connor Riley

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Why Richard LeCounte has been the real breakout player for Georgia this year

Richard LeCounte has always had high expectations from pretty much the moment he became the first recruit to commit to playing for Kirby Smart at Georgia.

The 5-star safety was vocal and instrumental  in piecing together Georgia’s 2017 class, which finished ranked No. 3 in the country. He starred in commitment videos and even dressed up as Santa.

And then his freshman season happened and it was unspectacular for a player of his pedigree. He played in 10 games and didn’t appear in either the Oklahoma or Alabama games. Then throw in the preseason comments Kirby Smart about challenging him, and there may have been some reason to be worried about LeCounte.

“His arrow’s up, then his arrow’s down, then his arrow’s up, then his arrow’s down,” Smart said of LeCounte in August. “He makes some of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen, and then he makes some of the most boneheaded plays. There’s not a level of consistency there.”

But after the South Carolina game, it’s safe to say that LeCounte is starting to find that level of consistency that Smart talked about.

The sophomore defensive back led the team with 10 tackles, with 7 of them being solo tackles. He also nearly hauled in an interception as well and was pretty clearly the best player on the field when Georgia was on defense.

We bring all of this up because ESPN listed its 2018 breakout players for each Top 25 team after two games. For Georgia, it listed Mecole Hardman, who has also been awesome so far this season. But Hardman sort of already announced himself to the college football world in the national championship game last season.

And while Hardman being as great as he is will help boost the Georgia offense, if LeCounte plays like he played against South Carolina it fundamentally changes the ceiling of both the Georgia defense and the Georgia football team.

Roquan Smith was a great eraser last year for Georgia in that he was able to cover up for other people’s mistakes or busts. LeCounte has the ability to grow into that and do similar things from the safety position. Dominick Sanders was a lot of things for Georgia but he was not an eraser. And he also never played as well as LeCounte did on Saturday.

LeCounte will have greater tests in the future, especially next week against Missouri quarterback Drew Lock who many have pegged as a top draft pick for the upcoming season. But of the unknowns Georgia had in the preseason, LeCounte has done everything that’s been asked of him and more so far.

Gary Danielson only worried about Georgia in two games

Gary Danielson has already seen Georgia play once this season, as he was on hand to watch Georgia dismantle South Carolina. And while he was impressed with how good the Bulldogs looked, he does have a concern going forward.

Mainly it’s that Georgia lacks the opponents on its schedule to adequately prepare for the tougher games—at LSU and home against Auburn—on its schedule.

“Going to play at LSU for a team that doesn’t play there is going to be a significant game for Georgia,” Danielson said while appearing on WJOX in Birmingham. “LSU playing at home as physical as they are, that will give them a challenge.”

Georgia visits LSU on Oct. 13. It will be the first time the Bulldogs play at LSU since 2008.

As for Auburn, the Tigers hammered Georgia last season when the two teams met in the regular season. And after having already beaten Washington this year, the Tigers look like they will be very good again.

“I believe this year, the elite defense and front seven, and Georgia builds its team around being able to run the football first and then go to the passing game,” Danielson said. “They’re a team (Auburn) that can physically slow down that Georgia attack and make them do something a little different. Those two games are probably the only two games that the team on the field has enough talent to challenge this Georgia team.”

LSU and Auburn play each other this week as the two teams will meet in Auburn. That game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will air on CBS.

Georgia has the easiest path to a division title

Among the major Power 5 divisions, the SEC East might be one of the weakest, and certainly the lesser compared to the SEC West. And while to some that might be seen as a detriment, it does offer Georgia one advantage.

According to Seth Walder, an analytics writer for ESPN, the Bulldogs are the biggest division favorite in all of the FBS, Power 5 and Group of 5 included.

The weakened division, and thus easier path to Atlanta, offers Georgia a better shot at getting into the College Football Playoff, than say an Auburn. The weak SEC East, along with Georgia just being a very, very good football team is why the Bulldogs have such a high chance of making the playoff.

As Walder points out, the SEC has a better chance of getting two teams in the College Football Playoff than the PAC-12 does of getting one. Last year the SEC did get two SEC teams into the College Football Playoff, while the Big Ten and PAC-12 were left out.

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