We had known that Georgia was operating at a deficit when it came to defensive backs. Georgia had just four scholarship cornerbacks this spring and started a walk-on, Dan Jackson, during the team’s spring game.
“We’ve got to get better in the secondary to go where we’re going to go,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the spring game. “We’ve got some guys coming, but we’ve got to get the guys that are here to go to here, and that’s our job as coaches.”
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Georgia landed some reinforcements on Monday. What was surprising was that the player came from Georgia’s 2023 recruiting class, as opposed to the transfer portal.
“I saw it as an opportunity to elevate my level of development as an athlete,” Washington told DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell. “Because I will have an opportunity to get an early start of being coached by the best coaches in college football and being groomed by the premier college football program that coach [Kirby] Smart has built in Athens.
“UGA was already a top program and Kirby just elevated it to that next level and I’m excited to have an opportunity to be a part of that.”
Washington now becomes Georgia’s sixth defensive back in the 2022 recruiting cycle. Three of them took place in the spring game, with Daylen Everette lining up at cornerback and Malaki Starks and JaCorey Thomas playing safety.
Julian Humphrey and Jaheim Singletary will both also arrive this summer. Depending on where Washington slides in upon his re-ranking, Georgia very well could have five top-100 overall players lining up in the defensive backfield from this recruiting class.
At a bare minimum, the addition of Washington provides even more depth to a thin cornerback room. As mentioned, Georgia had only Everette, Nyland Green, Kamari Lassiter and Kelee Ringo available during spring practice. Ringo is the only one of the four to start for Georgia.
When Lassiter got a stomach bug before G-Day, Georgia elected to move William Poole over from the star position to the starting cornerback slot. That bumped Javon Bullard up into the starting star spot with the first-team defense.
Depth has been a consistent concern for the Georgia secondary, as the Bulldogs have lost 13 defensive backs to either the transfer portal or NFL draft in the past two offseasons. Georgia has also cycled through defensive back coaches of late, as Fran Brown takes over for Jahmile Addae, who left after just one season.
“Receiver and defensive-back, we have never in seven years been this thin. Ever been this thin,” Smart said earlier this spring. “You don’t have depth. You don’t have it anywhere. It’s easy to leave and go places. Those guys are a little higher maintenance in terms of thinking of themselves. They expect to play right away and go. It’s certainly a position of concern for us in terms of recruiting and development as a skill position.”
Washington is likely to play cornerback at GEorgia, though the Bulldogs will also cross-train him at other positions. This is pretty standard for all defensive backs at this point.
There is also the question of what Washington Jr.’s addition means with regards to Georgia and the 85-man scholarship number. The addition of the defensive back would on paper put Georgia at 89 scholarship players. However, Georgia can get creative in how it counts players, through either a blue-shirt or a gray-shirt. What’s more is that a player who was once on scholarship could have been taken off scholarship, helping alleviate some concern about the numbers situation.
Defensive back was not the only position where Georgia has considered adding players, with wide receiver also being a candidate. Ole Miss and Arkansas both recently added wide receivers from the transfer portal, while Pitt’s Jordan Addison is also available. With the explosion of passing offenses, wide receivers have become a very hot commodity.
Related: Exploring Kirby Smart’s comments on Georgia football wide receiver position as Jordan Addison enters transfer portal
The addition of Washington’s will give Georgia four freshman cornerbacks on the 2022 roster. It would be a lot to expect any of them to start right away, though Smart was proud of what Everette showed this spring.
“The thing about Daylen Everette, we learned in the spring he can tackle you,” Smart said. He’s not afraid of contact. He’s going to be a good football player.”
Georgia could still be in the market for more help at the safety position, provided the right player becomes available who fits what Georgia wants.
But Washington’s reclassification shows that Georgia is still going to prefer building its team through recruiting. Get a player in early, develop them and send them off to the NFL.
While Washington doesn’t fit your typical early enrollee archetype, he’s clearly someone that Georgia wants and covets as a piece of its team.
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