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Georgia cornerback Tyrique McGhee (26) and J.R. Reed are part of a group that could be key to the Dawgs winning one more — very important — game this season.

Georgia’s secondary primed to begin new era in Athens

Cy Brown

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Depth chart breakdown: Defensive backs

Kirby Smart can be hard on Georgia’s defensive backs. He played safety in college, coached defensive backs at Alabama and elsewhere, and he often works 1-on-1 with the DBs in practice. I get the impression he takes a lot of personal pride in the play of the secondary and expects a little more from it than other position groups.

So when he criticizes the secondary — as he did often this spring — I have a hard time deciphering whether these are legit concerns or he’s just holding his defensive backs to a higher standard.

Then came G-Day. With 3 interceptions and 12 pass breakups, the secondary looked like the best unit on the field. Rising sophomore safety Richard LeCounte, who received the brunt of Smart’s ire in spring practice, intercepted a pass, made 3 tackles and broke up 2 more passes. Because — or in spite — of Smart’s criticisms, Georgia’s secondary rose to the occasion.

When you consider what happened in January, it makes sense why Smart rides his secondary so hard. Poor play from the secondary ultimately cost Georgia the national championship. The secondary last season was solid and experienced, but when push came to shove, it got beat against the Tide. Georgia’s secondary has to improve for the Dawgs to perennially compete for national titles, and no one knows that better than Smart.

Like many of the position groups we’ve discussed in this series, the secondary is in the midst of a Smart-ification process. Dominick Sanders, Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish are gone. And while those guys were all solid contributors and experienced hands, Georgia needs to take a step up from them to compete for titles. Thankfully, there’s a lot of young talent in this 2018 group. If the secondary is to ever become the well-oiled machine Smart needs, this will be the season we start to see it happen.

This post is part of an ongoing series breaking down Georgia’s post-spring depth chart position by position. For links to the other posts in this series, check the bottom of this section.

Cornerback

  1. Deandre Baker (Senior) — We could look back on Baker’s decision to return to school as the biggest moment of the offseason. He’s Georgia’s first true shutdown corner in ages and the rock of this secondary.
  2. Ameer Speed (Sophomore) — At 6-foot-3, Speed brings a little something different to the table than any of the other corners. Listed as a backup here, he’ll compete for the second starting corner job as well.
  3. Eric Stokes (Redshirt freshman) — Stokes is also tall (6-1), showed plenty of promise in the spring and should compete for snaps this fall.
  4. Chris Smith (Freshman) — Smith said he regrets not enrolling early. Had he, he might’ve been in the conversation for a lot of playing time right now. That could still happen, but he’ll just need to prove himself in fall camp.

Cornerback

  1. Tyrique McGhee (Junior) — McGhee, one of the most experienced players in the secondary, was solid last season and impressive this spring. He’ll either take the second starting corner job or will play Star, which is essentially a first-team gig in this defense.
  2. Mark Webb (Sophomore) — An injury kept Webb out of G-Day, but he was one of the most impressive players in the unit beforehand. Along with Speed and Stokes, he’ll push McGhee at corner.
  3. Tyson Campbell (Freshman) — Campbell is the best cornerback prospect Georgia has signed in years, maybe ever. Although he’s listed third here, he’ll be too good to keep off the field as a freshman. Whether at Star or corner proper, the coaches will find a way to get him on the field, maybe even as a starter.

Star/Nickel

  1. William Poole III (Sophomore) — Poole had the distinction of playing Star for both the Red and Black teams at G-Day. That’s a pretty good hint as to where he’ll line up this fall.
  2. Deangelo Gibbs (Sophomore) — Gibbs wasn’t with the team this spring, but when he comes back, he’ll push Poole.

Free safety

  1. Richard LeCounte (Sophomore) — Smart has been more critical of LeCounte than any other defensive back, but I think that’s because he expects more out of him than any other defensive back. That’s a good indication that LeCounte has what it takes to be a future star.
  2. Jarvis Wilson (Senior) — Wilson will be the first safety off the bench and earn plenty of snaps in relief of both LeCounte and J.R. Reed.
  3. Tray Bishop (Redshirt freshman) — Bishop performed well in spring practice, but not well enough to put himself in the conversation at the top of the depth chart yet.
  4. Nadab Joseph (Freshman) — He projects at safety, but Joseph could work at Star this season if the coaches think they can make more use of him there.

Strong safety

  1. J.R. Reed (Junior) — Reed went from unknown to fan favorite quicker than almost any player I’ve ever seen at Georgia, and for good reason. He was the second-best defensive back behind Baker last season, and I don’t expect that to change.
  2. Latavious Brini (Redshirt freshman)— Brini still has a lot of work to do if he wants to earn much playing time this season.
  3. Otis Reese (Freshman) — Throughout the recruiting process, fans considered Reese a linebacker. But Smart made it clear Reese was brought to Georgia to play safety. He should avoid a redshirt and provide the big, physical presence the secondary has lacked.

Depth Chart Breakdown: Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Quarterback | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebacker

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A spicy meatball, Chicago-style

Of all the hot takes I was expecting to read when I woke up Wednesday, “Roquan Smith is an embarrassment because someone broke into his BMW” was not among them.

The dingus who cooked up that one is Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune. If you want to give him an ill-gotten click and read a bunch of “thoughts” that range from inane to insidious, I won’t stop you. But if you don’t want to convince his editors that this really bad column was actually a good idea, you can instead check out the roasting Rosenbloom is receiving on his tweet about the story, which has a ratio that reads like a slash line from a time when baseballs were still made out of shoes.

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