ATHENS — Julian Humphrey may not have been many people’s pick to emerge as a starting cornerback coming off the 2021 season. He redshirted in his first season on campus and entered spring behind Nyland Green and Daylen Everette on the depth chart.

But in the final days before Georgia’s first game against UT-Martin, it’s clear Humphrey, whose teammates call him Julio. is going to play significant snaps at cornerback for Georgia.

“Julio is actually having an amazing offseason,” safety Javon Bullard said. “Really just sharpening the tools he already has. Great speed, a guy that comes into work, day-in, day-out. I’m really excited to see him help this team this year. He’s put in the work and he deserves an opportunity to play.”

Entering the first game, Humphrey seems to have the first crack at replacing Kelee Ringo, who is now a Philadelphia Eagle. He was one of three cornerbacks Georgia signed in the 2022 recruiting cycle and was actually ranked lower than Everette and Jaheim Singletary. The latter is now playing for Arkansas.

Speed has always been Humphrey’s calling card. That allowed him to play a lot of man coverage as a high school prospect from Texas. Humphrey was the No. 81 overall prospect in the 2022 recruiting cycle per the 247Sports Composite rankings.

As Georgia implemented more zone coverages into its defense, that meant that Humphrey was going to have to rely less on physical gifts and more on his mental game in order to see the field.

His time with Georgia cornerbacks coach Fran Brown seems to have gotten Humphrey in a place where he’s going to play a lot of snaps for the Bulldogs.

“He’s grown as a player. He’s gotten tougher, he’s gotten more physical,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He still has not arrived, he still has moments that make you wonder what he’s doing, but then he has some ‘Wow’ moments. He’s done some really good things in camp, but he has to continue to play in and buy in to the process of getting better at that position. He’ll get better because he’s talented.”

Getting game reps will go a long way in further developing Humphrey. He was likely always going to get them given Georgia opens against UT-Martin and Ball State in the first two weeks.

Should Humphrey continue his run of form from fall camp into the season, he’s likely going to see a lot of the field once Georgia gets into SEC play.

“I think Julian Humphrey’s been having a real good camp, playing with the confidence level and then just being physically gifted that he is with him being able to run and look the part out there,” defensive back Tykee Smith said. “Just trying to get him to keep coming along and help the team as best as possible. Looking forward to seeing him come along.”

Normally, Humphrey would be starting opposite Kamari Lassiter to open the season. But Georgia’s veteran cornerback Kamari Lassiter has been dealing with a foot sprain for most of camp. His status is in doubt for the opener, though the injury is not expected to keep him out long-term.

Lassiter’s injury could open the door for Green and Everette to see more playing time. Freshman AJ Harris is also expected to get looks as well. It’s a deep cornerback room and game reps should only further help show Georgia’s best cornerbacks.

Whether or not Lassiter is out there, Georgia’s secondary knows it has to be at its best. If that means Humphrey or someone else needs to step up, so be it.

“Whether Kamari plays or not, the standard is the standard,” Bullard said. “It’s always a process of next man up. We got to be ready with or without Kamari. Of course we want to have him out there. He’s a playmaker, he’s a huge difference maker in the defense. But if things don’t go our way in that area, we got to be ready to play.”

Javon Bullard praises Julian Humphrey