Safety Christopher Smith (29) and cornerback Kelee Ringo are key returnees in the secondary. (University of Georgia)
University of Georgia

Georgia secondary will be challenged to live up to lofty, and perhaps even unrealistic, expectations

ATHENS —The Georgia secondary figures to be tested to extremes this season not seen since 2016 with a reloading front and challenging schedule.

Preseason magazines and online publications quickly draw off last season’s impressive numbers and plug in West Virginia safety transfer Tykee Smith, who was limited by injuries last season.

At first glance, there’s comfort in that, with cornerback Kelee Ringo and veteran safety Christopher Smith both bringing preseason All-American honors into the 2022 season.

Further, position groups do not operate independently of one another, and almost every Bulldogs fan knows that much of the secondary’s success in 2021 could be attributed to a historically dominant front seven that

• produced four first-round NFL Draft picks (Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Quay Walker and overall No. 1 pick Travon Walker), the Butkus Award winner (Nakobe Dean) and a third-round NFL Draft (Channing Tindall)

• Ranked second in the nation in run defense (78.9 yards per game), essentially making opposing offenses one-dimensional

• Ranked third in the nation in tackles-for-loss yardage (510) and seventh in the nation with 3.27 sacks per game.

Georgia has recruited highly ranked talent, but there will be a considerable drop-off in experience.

The take-away is the secondary will find itself in more challenging down-and-distance situations and in coverage for longer instances.

ESPN’s recent quarterback projections for the next NFL Draft provide more evidence the Georgia secondary may not look as good this season as in 2021.

The Bulldogs could be facing five of the Top 20 NFL draft prospects at quarterback this season, with Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young the No. 2 QB per an ESPN-plus pay site article Jordan Reid that came out earlier this month.

Georgia isn’t scheduled to play the Tide in the regular season, however, if the Bulldogs win the East Division Alabama is the most likely opponent to represent the West.

Here’s what Reid said about each of the QBs the Bulldogs could run into:

No. 2 Bryce Young, Alabama

Matchup: Potentially Dec. 3, Mercedes-Benz Stadium

ESPN Take: “Poise. It’s the singular trait that could set him apart from the other QB prospects in the 2023 class. Look at the comeback victory in overtime against Auburn. Think about how he continued to attack in the national championship game against Georgia despite losing his top two targets in John Metchie III and Jameson Williams in consecutive weeks. There wasn’t much that seemed to faze Young during his first season as a starter.”

No. 4 Will Levis, Kentucky

Matchup: Nov. 19, Lexington, Ky.

ESPN Take: “Levis has a snappy three-quarter release, and the ball comes off his hand with energy and velocity. He is at his best when he can turn his back to the defense on play-action passes, reset his eyes and assess the defense. And Levis is also a competitive runner who is fearless when escaping the pocket.”

No. 5 Anthony Richardson, Florida

Matchup: Oct. 29, Jacksonville, Fla.

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