ATHENS — Kelee Ringo made his first career interception in the 56-7 win over UAB on Saturday and is starting to show why he was the No. 1-ranked cornerback in the nation in the 2020 class.
Ringo, who has started both his games at Georgia at cornerback, skied high with 8:29 left in the third quarter, picking off Tyler Johnston’s deep pass at the UGA 40 with the Bulldogs leading 42-0.
Georgia beat Clemson 10-3, but the Tigers were going after Ringo by the fourth quarter after he had two flagrant pass interference infractions.
Smart, a former All-SEC safety who specializes in coaching defensive backs, made it clear he believed Ringo would learn from his first collegiate outing.
“Thought the corners did good, we asked them to play some man (coverage) and I didn’t think they found the ball well,” Smart said after the showcase victory in Charlotte. “We have to get more confidence with our backs to the ball. The two PIs on Kelee, I think he’ll get better, he’s a talented player.”
Ringo said there was indeed a lesson to be learned, and it was one of maintaining poise and confidence after the Clemson game.
“I just think about the pass interferences, being able to believe in myself, I feel like after those happened, I was like, I need to rely on my training more,” Ringo said. “Once the ball was in the air, I was fighting with the receiver too much.
“(So,) just having poise and being able to relax when the ball is in the air and you know the ball is coming, and looking for the ball and making a play on the ball like I did in the UAB game,”
Ringo said the interception was an indescribable moment, but it had been a long time coming after he was forced to miss last season following labrum surgery.
“I worked to keep myself engaged day in and day out, staying with the players,” said Ringo, who Smart said stayed tuned in via perfect attendance at player meetings. “I was seeing my teammates work hard and looking forward to being a part of that, (and that) helped me stay up and stay on the right foot every day.”
Ringo said Smart’s advice on how to apply himself with mental reps during the 2020 season is indeed paying off.
“Mental reps are a huge thing, they are greatly underestimated,” Ringo said. “That’s why any time a player is hurt, Coach Smart is like, if you aren’t getting the play call, if you’re not seeing what the offense is doing, you are wrong.
“Because when you get on the field and when it’s your turn, you will play much faster and things happen much slower, so you can react to things faster.”
Two games into his career, Ringo is making the plays many envisioned when he signed and solidifying the Georgia secondary.