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Kelee Ringo was Georgia's top rated signee in the 2020 class.

College coaches tab Kelee Ringo as top Georgia football incoming freshman

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Kirby Smart has never had a talent like Kelee Ringo

Kirby Smart is pretty clearly one of the best defensive coaches in college football. To be even more specific, he’s undoubtedly one of the best secondary coaches in the country. His track record of development at both Alabama and Georgia can point to that, through the numerous All-Americans and high draft picks Smart has helped mold.

Smart has only continued to build elite secondaries and defensive backs in his time at Georgia. Deandre Baker won the Jim Thorpe Award and J.R. Reed was a finalist for the award this past year.

This coming season Georgia figures to have one of the nation’s top secondaries once again, as it will be lead by safety Richard LeCounte and cornerback Eric Stokes. In addition to top-end talent, the group has depth as well, with 5-star prospects like Tyson Campbell and Tyrique Stevenson looking to take on bigger roles in 2020.

And while the Bulldogs have to replace Reed, they brought in four defensive backs in the 2020 signing class.

“I feel like we’ve got a very complete defensive back class,” Smart said. “I’ll always reiterate, I feel like you’ve got to sign four or five defensive backs a year in order to stay where you need to stay from a depth standpoint.”

Of course what Smart doesn’t mention there is that the top player in Georgia’s class is also a defensive back. That would be Kelee Ringo, the nation’s No. 1 cornerback, and perhaps more importantly, the highest-rated defensive back Smart has ever signed at either Alabama or Georgia.

Related: How Georgia landed the nation’s top cornerback in Kelee Ringo

Ringo’s measurables are somewhere on the scale of elite and absurd. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. Campbell, the second highest-rated defensive back Georgia has signed since Smart took over in December of 2015, is listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

But in addition to the size, Ringo also has the speed to match up with elite players as well. Ringo clocked a 10.43 in the 100-yard dash per athletic.net as a junior. Campbell, who was one of the top sprinter’s in Florida, posted a top time of 10.41 as a junior.

Those measurables, paired with a physicality that isn’t normally seen from a defensive back, are why expectations are so high for Ringo. In a piece for ESPN, a number of college coaches and personnel directors gave their thoughts on who the top newcomer to college football would be from the 2020 class.

Among Georgia’s 2020 signing class, that finished ranked first in the country per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Ringo was the top vote-getter.

“He’s that rare, big, long corner who is a top-notch, explosive athlete, one Pac-12 director of player personnel said. “Very physical at the catch point. He’s a profile tackler, has really natural man-match foot quickness and great long speed.”

He was the only defensive back to receive more than one vote from the 66 coaches polled for the story. In the same survey from the 2019 class, Derek Stingley Jr. was the top defensive back. He went on to become arguably the best freshman in the country. Georgia fans should know him well as he picked off two Jake Fromm passes in the SEC championship game.

Ringo wasn’t the only Georgia player to get a vote, as defensive tackle Jalen Carter received two and fellow cornerback Jalen Kimber got one as well.

But it’s not a lock or even a certainty that Ringo will go on to make a Stingley type impact, or even a Campbell-type impact next season. Georgia’s secondary should be a strength of the team, and with so much uncertainty regarding the resumption of college football activities, the experience is likely to play a bigger factor in the seasons to come.

This past season, Stevenson was Georgia’s top-ranked defensive back signee. He didn’t end making an impact until the ninth game of the season.

Still, Smart has shown time and time again that if you’re a capable player, he will find a way to get you onto the field. Last season, 37 Bulldogs played at least 100 snaps. Georgia employed a rotation at cornerback late in the season once it was clear Stokes, Campbell and D.J. Daniel were all strong options. The likes of Stevenson, Mark Webb and Divaad Wilson also made contributions at the Star and Money positions.

And it’s also worth mentioning that Ringo’s size does give him the chance to possibly some safety if need be. Lewis Cine is widely expected to replace Reed, but if Ringo is as good as his recruiting ranking indicates, Smart would at least give thought to employing him back there.

ESPN also put out another piece this week ranking futures defenses in the seasons to come. The Bulldogs came in at No. 1, up from the No. 2 spot a season ago. It’s because the Bulldogs have a player like Ringo that it’s easy to continue to envision a dominant secondary and defense in the years to come.

And there will likely be another big name recruit a year from now — like say James Williams or Tony Grimes — that leave some to forget about Ringo’s potential and talents.

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