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Richard LeCounte on leading, learning and those Kirby Smart criticisms

UGA’s Richard LeCounte: ‘If I run out of things to learn I won’t be a great football player’

Georgia Bulldog Richard LeCounte told media Tuesday he's ready to take on whatever challenges coaches throw at him in spring practice. He's learning a new safety spot aims to put on a total of 15 pounds before the fall.
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Georgia Bulldog Richard LeCounte told media Tuesday he's ready to take on whatever challenges coaches throw at him in spring practice. He's learning a new safety spot aims to put on a total of 15 pounds before the fall.

Kirby Smart was never coy about his thoughts on Georgia safety Richard LeCounte.

Asked at a press conference almost a year ago to-date, Smart said the then-sophomore had a “lot to learn.”

“I don’t know if Richard knows what it takes to be good, like the demands it takes, the study it takes, the seriousness it takes,” Smart said last spring. “He’s a very talented young man but he’s got to meet the demands the position requires, which is come in, learn, make the calls, make the decisions. Sometimes I don’t know if he wants that responsibility on him.”

Fast forward one year, and LeCounte will admit that he’s still learning. This time around, though, it’s a little bit different.

This spring, the junior has taken reps at both safety spots during practice. The other safety spot, held by senior J.R. Reed., provides a new challenge for LeCounte.

“I see it as a great challenge,” LeCounte said. “I really have fun learning that spot.”

Learning a new safety spot is just the latest task in LeCounte’s offseason to-do list, which started with becoming more physical. LeCounte said he has put on 12 to 15 pounds this offseason (he’s aiming for 15 pounds), which would put him at around 205 pounds.

He does not have the biggest frame — at 5-foot-11, he’s a good bit smaller than fellow safety Otis Reese (6-foot-3, 210 pounds). LeCounte’s size and physicality became points of emphasis after the Sugar Bowl, a game in which the Bulldogs defense got torched by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

LeCounte led the Bulldogs in missed tackles last season, with 15.

“I definitely feel better,” LeCounte said. “I feel more confident in my strength, things like that, because I feel that I’ve put in a lot of work to be able to change the problem I had last year.”

The area that LeCounte does have going for him, though, is experience.

LeCounte started 14 games in 2018 and was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler (75 tackles) last season. He grabbed his first career interception off Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa in the SEC Championship Game, on the Crimson Tide’s opening drive.

The only game LeCounte didn’t start last season was a November victory over Auburn. Reese earned his first career start, in place of LeCounte, on that frigid night.

LeCounte has more in-game experience than most of the other Bulldog safeties (Reese, Lewis Cine, Christopher Smith) with the exception of Reed.

“I know whoever plays the best will get on the field, and that’s how it should be,” LeCounte said. “I never hold a lot against (the younger safeties). But I’m also going to work hard and show them, as a leader, how to work them through, and lead by example.”

And as far as Smart’s comments from last spring go, LeCounte said they don’t really bother him. He sees them as a challenge, and another bullet point on his spring to-do list.

“Every day, there’s something that I need to learn,” LeCounte said. “No matter what position that I’m in. If I run out of things to learn, I won’t be a great football player, because every day, you should try to do something better as a person. ... I know at the end of the day, (the criticism) is going to help me, and it’s going to help my team.”

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