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Photo by Mark Cornelison / Cornerback Tyson Campbell (3) and the rest of Georgia's secondary will be challenged this week with safety Richard LeCounte III sidelined and with the task of facing Florida's stout passing attack that ranks seventh in the country.

Georgia senior safety Richard LeCounte III didn't pull a hamstring, suffer a broken ankle or even tear an anterior cruciate ligament this past Saturday.

LeCounte survived a motorcycle crash after the Bulldogs flew home from their 14-3 win at Kentucky, which is why Georgia coach Kirby Smart isn't treating questions this week about LeCounte the same as other players who were hurt against the Wildcats, and there were plenty of those.

"When you get news like that, it's crushing and disheartening," Smart said this week. "It just makes everything flash before you — all of the experiences I've had with him. It was a very serious crash, and he's very fortunate to have had his helmet on and to be where he is now. He is very fortunate considering what most people have when they have one of those motorcycle accidents.

"It was certainly scary for our team and for everybody in our family and everybody in our organization. It was scary for him and his family. It makes you hug your kids a little more at night for sure."

LeCounte was brilliant against Kentucky, recording 13 tackles, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. The Southeastern Conference recognized him Monday as its defensive player of the week, but he is out with a concussion and a bruised rib for this week's game against Florida in Jacksonville, and there may be no more important regular-season contest in the SEC this year.

Georgia also will face the Gators without fifth-year senior defensive lineman Julian Rochester, while junior defensive lineman Jordan Davis is questionable for the 3:30 p.m. showdown on CBS. Rochester (knee) and Davis (elbow) suffered first-half injuries against the Wildcats.

LeCounte has started a whopping 33 games in his college career and leads the No. 5 Bulldogs with three interceptions, so his absence will be noted.

"Richard is the last line of defense, so he's always that guy making that playmaking tackle or being a ball hawk in the passing game," junior cornerback Tyson Campbell said. "We're going to miss that part of him, and he's a very important piece to our defense, but the guys we have in our room are confident they can do the exact same."

LeCounte started at strong safety and Lewis Cine at free safety against the Wildcats, with Campbell and Eric Stokes as the cornerbacks. Georgia will have to employ more than four defensive backs against the Gators, who pose a constant aerial threat with quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts, with junior Christopher Smith a possibility to join Cine at the very back end.

"Chris has played a lot for us," Smart said. "Richard came out of the one game for targeting, and Chris came in and played for Lewis the other day. We feel like Chris has a lot of experience. Tyrique Stevenson has worked back there, and (Latavious) Brini has worked back there. We've had Major Burns work back there, so that's what it looks like at safety."

Said Campbell: "We still have the confidence we've always had. We believe in the next man up mentality, and we believe in the talent that we have on our team. I'm pretty confident coming into this game."

Florida ranks seventh nationally and second in the SEC to Alabama in passing offense, averaging 342.8 yards per game. Trask ranks sixth in the country in efficiency with a 189.2 rating, having completed 95 of 139 passes (68.3%) for 1,341 yards with 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Pitts and the versatile Kadarius Toney each have 22 receptions, with Pitts leading the team in receiving yards with 355 and receiving scores with seven.

"I don't think anybody is stopping him," Smart said. "It's more about limiting the explosives and matching up and winning some 50/50 balls — that's what he's best at. People think you can just double cover him, but you can't do that, because they put him in places where you can't double him and you've got to do other things to other people.

"They've got other good players besides just him, and their quarterback knows where to throw the ball to give him a shot. There is not an easy answer for that."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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