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Kirby Smart on Georgia cornerback need: ‘Every guy on our team is a potential cornerback right now’

It’s clear that Georgia has a need at the cornerback position. Following a number of departures after the 2020 season, the Bulldogs have a grand total of zero career starts at the cornerback position on for Georgia.

That’s why head coach Kirby Smart made reference to the fact that anyone on the Georgia roster could help and possibly play the cornerback spot ahead of the start of spring practice.

“The cornerback position is completely open,” Smart said. “We got a lot of guys who are going to be working at cornerback. Every guy on our team is a potential cornerback right now. We’re in search of finding guys who can play that position at a high level.”

Gone are multi-year starters in Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell and DJ Daniel. Top back-up Tyrique Stevenson, who started at the position in Georgia’s Peach Bowl win, is now playing for Miami.

What Georgia has left to fill the position is a number of former blue-chip recruits. Kelee Ringo was the No. 1 defensive back prospect in the 2020 signing class. Nyland Green was the No. 5 overall cornerback in the 2021 cycle. Jalen Kimber was the No. 105 overall player in the 2020 class.

Both of those players will participate in spring drills. And while they have potential, none of it has been truly proven yet as Ringo missed all of last season with a labrum injury and Green was a senior in high school.

Add in Daran Branch, Ameer Speed and 2021 signee Kamari Lassiter and you can see why Smart has a help wanted sign on the position.

“You have to have guys who can function,” Smart said. “That position is up for grabs. There are no guys who are proven, returning starters and every guy is working hard to learn the techniques and details to play winning football at that position.”

Related: Georgia football needs a strong offseason from Kelee Ringo

Georgia has long preached versatility in the secondary, which is why you could see someone like Latvious Brinni shift from Star to cornerback if need be. The same could be said for 2021 signee Javon Bullard.

There also exists the possibility of the transfer portal for Georgia to improve the position. Smart once again referenced that Georgia would only use it on a needs basis when speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

But he also brought a past example of where a transfer player really helped bolster the Georgia secondary.

“I think we have very capable young players at the position, we just don’t have a lot of experience,” Smart said. “If you look at game experience, which you look at our first year here, we got Mo (Maurice) Smith who makes your team better almost immediately.

“So we would not decline the option to look in there.”

Smith came over from Alabama as a graduate transfer prior to the 2016 season, Smart’s first in Athens. He went on to become Georgia’s defensive MVP in his lone season as a safety at Georgia.

A recent name that some have wondered about is former Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick. He was dismissed from the team on Sunday and has the chance to enter the transfer portal should he elect not to enter the NFL’s supplemental draft.

RelatedDerion Kendrick departure impact Georgia game against Clemson

While Smart still prefers bringing in prospects as recruits and developing them that way, he is not against using the portal if it happens to fill a need.

“I don’t think the guys that come out of the portal have issues or problems, that’s just not our normal protocol,” Smart said. “It’s not what we want to build our program around. It’s a need-based deal and we have needs.”

While the concerns in the secondary are obvious, the Bulldogs should have one of the best defensive fronts in college football. The Bulldogs had the No. 1 run defense in the country and return promising pass rushers Nolan Smith and Adam Anderson. A stout pass rush should make things much, much easier for whoever Georgia ends up starting at the cornerback spot.

With college football becoming more pass-happy, it puts greater pressure on opposing secondaries. Add in that Georgia plays a significant amount of man coverage and you can see why Smart is looking for anybody that can possibly help fill that need.

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