NEW ORLEANS — Richard LeCounte provided insight into a mindset that’s made him one of the most promising and improved defensive backs in the SEC this season.
The Georgia junior safety is asserting himself now more than ever with All-American safety J.R. Reed’s decision to skip the Sugar Bowl after suffering a foot injury in practice last week.
“It’s like being an extra coach back there, and helping those guys get lined up back there, and when you do it and see it all come together, it’s real fun,” LeCounte said.
“I enjoy coming in and seeing their faces coming in smiling, and having great conversation with them,” he said. “It’s something bigger than football, it’s like a brotherhood that we’ve got back there, all those guys bought into the system.”
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play No. 7 Baylor (11-2) at 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
LeCounte knows the Bulldogs are shorthanded — as many as 13 players could be Sugar Bowl scratches — but he has grown confident to the extent of waking up each day with the same mindset.
“Scheme can only get you so far, you can be in the right place at the right time, but if you don’t decide to make a play, then the other guy will,” LeCounte said. “So when you come out there, you have to come in with that mindset that you’re going to dominate and do what you’ve got to do to get the job done.
“That’s how I wake up every day and think about the game of football, and life, too.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, an All-SEC safety during his career at Georgia, has worked to build LeCounte into a champion and a leader.
There has to be a degree of satisfaction to see how LeCounte is asserting himself in a leadership capacity and growing stronger when the team needs him most.
LeCounte, no doubt, has proven strong and capable enough of handling the high expectations and responsibilities that come with being one of the more well-known Georgia football players.
“It is a grind, I can’t sit here and say it’s not, it’s difficult, and if you’re weak you’re not going to survive this,” LeCounte said. “You’ve got to have a mindset that’s totally different than your peers and the guys you went to high school with and grew up with, because simply, you are on a full-time job, and you have to go out there and do what you’ve got to do.”
LeCounte said he’s yet to consider his future after this season. It has been a good second half of the season, but it’s clear there’s room for LeCounte to improve.
But where he wants that improvement to take place, and what sort of NFL draft grade would it take for him to give up his new role as the leader of the Bulldogs’ secondary. LeCounte’s parents and family will surely have an impact on his decision as well, as players typically trust those closest to them.
LeCounte insists there’s no decision-making going on at this time.
“It isn’t even 50-50,” LeCounte said, asked if he was leaning one way or another. “It’s 100 percent here, and 100 percent focused on Baylor right now.”
Georgia safety Richard LeCounte