UGA football: Richard LeCounte III in the running for defensive award

UGA football safety Richard LeCounte III is one of the leaders on the defense, so it’s no surprise his name appears on the watchlist for the Lott IMPACT trophy.

UGA football fans have known for two years that Richard LeCounte III is one of the best safeties in college football. Going into his senior season, the nation is starting to take notice.

The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation recently released its 42-player watchlist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy. LeCounte’s is one of the names on the list and he’s the only Georgia Bulldog mentioned. The preseason honor comes after a season where LeCounte became a turnover machine. LeCounte forced two fumbles and recovered three, while also intercepting four passes. Georgia only created 16 turnovers in 2019 so LeCounte was involved in over half of them.

LeCounte has been a solid player for Georgia’s defense since becoming a starter in 2018, but he became a model of excellence late last season. He recovered crucial fumbles in the close victories over Auburn and Texas A&M, and he later intercepted two passes against Baylor. LeCounte’s 2019 highlight film also included a fumble recovery against Kentucky when the score was still 7-0; a 71-yard interception return against Missouri and numerous pass breakups.

LeCounte became more vocal later in the year as well and started taking over the leadership reigns from departing safety J.R. Reed. His NFL Draft stock was fairly high following the 2019 season, but LeCounte elected to stay in Athens to lead the defense one more year.

His tasks as a leader will expand beyond the locker room and sidelines in 2020. LeCounte will play the “quarterback” role on Georgia’s defense, making sure everyone is set and in position before the snap. He passed his first test in that role when Reed had to miss the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. Georgia’s defense only allowed 14 points and 295 yards.

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The Lott IMPACT Trophy is awarded annually to the defensive IMPACT player of the year. the IMPACT is an acronym for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community, and Tenacity. The award is named in honor of legendary professional and college defensive back Ronnie Lott.