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Georgia defensive back Nyland Green (1) during the Bulldogs’ game against UAB in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Kirby Smart worried about Georgia cornerback position: ‘It’s certainly a position of concern’

ATHENS — Kelee Ringo readily admits he didn’t feel comfortable with the Georgia defense at this point last year. Only in his second season, his head was still spinning as he was learning the complexities of the Georgia defense.

Now he’s the most senior member of the room.

If Ringo, who made the game-clinching interception in the National Championship win over Alabama, was still getting up to speed you can only imagine how the other Georgia cornerbacks must feel at similar points in their development.

“Receiver and defensive-back, we have never in seven years been this thin. Ever been this thin,” Smart said. “You can point a finger and blame anywhere you want, but it’s the life of a college football coach now. 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.”

Georgia will be getting more reinforcements this summer, though Jaheim Singletary and Julian Humphrey will both arrive as freshmen.

Given all the reps Lassiter, Green and Everette figure to soak up during spring practice, it will give them a big leg up in trying to fill the starting spot opposite Ringo.

Lassiter appears to be getting the most reps with the first-team right now, coming off what was a strong freshman season. He played in every game and had a stellar fall camp despite not enrolling early. Green meanwhile ended up redshirting his freshman season and found himself in some legal trouble at the end of the year.

“Kamari Lassiter and Nyland Green are two great young players,” Ringo said. “Great sponges learning the defense.”

The four cornerbacks are getting plenty of work with new defensive backs coach Fran Brown. At practice on Tuesday, Brown was working with the cornerbacks while co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp spent time working with the safeties.

Related: New defensive backs coach Fran Brown faces unique challenge in first season at Georgia

Dating back to when Green and Lassiter both signed with the Bulldogs in December of 2020, Brown is the third different defensive backs coach employed by Georgia. Charlton Warren left for Indiana in January of 2021, while Jahmile Addae left for Miami in February of 2022.

The coaching turnover almost matches that as the roster churn at cornerback in that same span. Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell, DJ Daniel and Derion Kendrick have all left for the NFL draft since the end of the 2020 season. Georgia has also lost Tyrique Stevenson, Jalen Kimber, Ameer Speed and Lovasea Carroll to the transfer portal as well.

Those transfers have enabled Everette — a 5-star cornerback signee in the 2022 recruiting cycle — to earn a massive amount of reps this spring. Even if they come with the second team, that will help him in the long run.

“Him being thrown in the fire, I remember how I felt in that situation, messing up on plays consistently and just having to line back up and put it behind me while Kirby’s in your ear as well, and the rest of the coaches,” Ringo said. “So I feel like taking things slow and doing what you can to help yourself, that’s something that’s going to make them succeed.”

It does help that Georgia gets Ringo back, especially since he seems to be much more confident than he was a season ago. With opposing teams targeting the inexperienced player often, confidence became an issue for Ringo. It’s something both he and Smart spoke about.

That’s where making that game-clinching interception against Alabama could help Ringo the most as he enters his second season as a starting cornerback at Georgia.

“Things like that -- making plays -- can give you a lot of confidence and just playing within your game,” Ringo said. “Learning new techniques and seeing different routes and things the receivers and the quarterback are going to do to you. I feel like when you make plays, you’re definitely more comfortable. You’re confidence skyrockets, and I feel like you’re able to play better.”

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