Kirby Smart spoke highly of true freshman DB Kamari Lassiter in his media briefing on Saturday afternoon.
It reflected a bit of his team’s recruiting philosophy on defense, even more about how Lassiter has come so far so fast and something about the American Christian Academy program in Tuscaloosa which developed him.
“Kamari Lassiter is a guy that didn’t get to play in the spring,” Smart said on Saturday. “He wasn’t here, but he’s really been a surprise highlight of camp. He’s intentional. He’s smart. He cares about special teams. He learns the first time you tell him. Just another evidence that if you go get smart students that can run, they can play.”
It also said a lot about Lassiter, too.
That “surprise highlight” phrase will catch a lot of eyes, including the beat reporter pool. But it is not news to those who saw glimpses of what Lassiter can do from the recruiting trail.
The 6-foot, 180-pounder freshman was an All-American Bowl selection. He wound up choosing between committable offers from Auburn, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Lassiter, a Savannah native, actually moved to Alabama when was growing up.
Lassiter finished his high school career rated as a 4-star, the nation’s No. 18 cornerback recruit and as the No. 247 overall prospect in the 2021 cycle.
“One of the things about Kamari is just the way that he competes in everything he does,” American Christian coach Chris Smelley said. “He’s a super competitive kid and so he’s not going to miss workouts. When he’s in the weight room, he’s challenging guys around him. The other thing is the football IQ he brings to the table. He’s a 4.0 (grade-point average) honor student who does really well in the classroom and that translates right over to the football field.”
That’s what Smart meant by saying “get smart kids who can run” in his comments on Saturday. Lassiter was hoping to pursue a biochemical engineering major when he arrived at UGA.
“He can pick up on things,” Smelley said. “He can see things and he’s able to use his brain as a way to give him an extra advantage out there in the middle of the game.”
Smelley gave him the ultimate compliment in regard to his football IQ. He felt Lassiter could have served as his team’s defensive backs coach during his senior year. He was just that sharp when it came to the game.
His competitive streak extends to just about anything. There were some sand volleyball games on the team’s summer retreats. Lassiter treated those like he was already playing in an SEC Championship Game. While facing the coaching staff, he would not hold anything back.
His senior year highlight reel reflects a lot of gold.
“The first time we touched the ball this year was an opening kickoff,” Smelley said during Lassiter’s senior year last fall. “To start the season and our first game, he returned that back for a touchdown.”
That score was called back due to a penalty on the receiving team.
“Then he also had a 105-yard interception return that was called back for a penalty,” Smelley said. “That same game. Then in our biggest game of the year. The region championship game this time. He caught about a 60-yard touchdown pass on a deep post over the middle.”
It was a highlight amidst a highlight.
“He was outstretched, Smelley said. “Finger-tip catch. Barely kept his balance and front-flipped into the end zone. That got called back for a penalty as well. So probably his three best or most exciting plays didn’t show up on the stat book.”
That said, you should see some of the plays below which did.
“One of my favorite things about Kamari is he’s such a personal kid,” Smelley said. “He’s got so much personality. I’ve got three kids and two boys aged three and five. When I get home from work every day, they are usually wanting me to come to play football with them. My three-year-old is always Kamari. He always says I am ‘Mari’ and my three-year-old loves to be Kamari.”
“The reason he loves to be Kamari is every time he comes to practice Kamari will come up to him and play with him and mess with him. His personality is just very infectious.”
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The Georgia coaches told the American Christian staff that one of the things they liked a great deal about Kamari Lassiter was his versatility. They think he can come in early, learn a couple of positions and put himself in a position to play quickly.
Why Kamari Lassiter wanted to be a Bulldog
Lassiter committed to Georgia during his senior season. It was at his Homecoming game.
It was a brilliant senior year full of memories in which he moved his ranking up 170-plus spots during a year in which very little evaluation was done. His stock rose basically just off his game tape.