The secondary will need to grow up quickly per Smart
Wednesday came and went with safety Terrian Arnold choosing Alabama over Georgia. However, even if the four-star safety had said yes to the Dawgs, it wouldn't have changed the dynamic of the Bulldogs’ secondary per Kirby Smart's comments in a meeting with the media.
Five of the team’s most experienced members of the secondary — Richard LeCounte, Eric Stokes, Mark Webb, D.J. Daniel, and Tyson Campbell — are preparing for the NFL Draft. A sixth, Star Tyrique Stevenson, transferred to Miami.
So, with the exception of returning safeties Lewis Cine and Christopher Smith, new defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae has the task of putting together Georgia’s 2021 secondary with players who are A) are young and inexperienced, or B) older players—who, despite several years on the team, have not received many game reps.
“l I think the number one thing about the secondary is it’s a developmental position,” Smart said Wednesday. “Number two, especially for us, is that when you look at it across the board, the number of players we’ve had that play as freshmen have been few and far between when it comes to defensive backs.”
Smart begrudgingly admits that will have to change come fall.
That’s especially true at cornerback where, with the exception of seldom-used senior Ameer Speed, the Bulldogs won’t have a scholarship cornerback who's been in the program for more than two years.
There’s talent on the roster. Redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo is a former five-star, yet he's coming off shoulder surgery. Second-year performer Jalen Kimber is skilled but has played in only three games.
With the exception of the aforementioned Speed, Georgia’s other scholarship corners consist of second-year player Daran Branch, followed by true freshmen Nyland Green, Khamari Lassiter and Javon Bullard.
“They’re going to have to impact early, whether they can or they can’t,” Smart told Rivals’ Mike Farrell in an exclusive interview earlier in the day. “I can’t say whether they can or they can’t, because they haven’t really been in our system. They’re talented athletes, or they wouldn’t be coming to the University of Georgia and the SEC.”
Of course, there’s always the transfer portal.
Although he would not commit to taking the transfer route, Smart seemed to indicate the portal would be an avenue he would consider.
“Corner is our biggest need—bigger than, say, necessarily safety,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure out if these guys (current players) can play, because we’re in big-time need at corner as we start out this season.”
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs could probably stand to find another safety, or Star, despite the presences of Cine, Smith, Brini, William Poole, Major Burns, and early enrollee David Daniel.
“There have certainly been role players, but not many guys who can just step in and play. So it’s a position that needs to be developed, we have some guys that we’ve been developing that need to step up and play,” Smart said of his secondary. “We also have some young guys we’ve signed that we just talked about, who'll have to grow quickly, and who will get an opportunity to compete for positions.”
Smart said each and every member of his secondary will receive his chance, but added the rest of the defense will need to do their parts to make their job as easy as possible.
“These young guys will begin to work. Some of the older guys that got to play in the bowl game more than normal—they’re going to get a lot of opportunities, and we’re going to try and develop some of these guys,” Smart said. “But we’re also going to need the front four getting some pressure and being able to rush; that'll be just as important as anything else that we do.”