ATHENS — Trevor Etienne has yet to take his first handoff at Georgia, but Kirby Smart said the Florida tailback transfer is already carrying a leadership role.

“Everything we’ve heard about Etienne before he got here has held true, he’s a tremendous leader, he’s a high character kid, so he immediately surges into a leadership role,” Smart said at his opening spring football press conference on Tuesday in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.

“He’s not a first-year player. He’s been in our league and our conference, and he has standards and expectations.”

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck could be the biggest benefactor on the field, as Etienne bolsters the run game and could help as a receiver out of the backfield.

“It always helps to have a good running back,” Beck said on Tuesday. “You feel comfortable turning your back to the defense handing it off.

We saw what he could do at Florida, and he’s been working really hard and we’re excited to see what he can do.”

Etienne said he has been welcomed at Georgia with open arms from the time he arrived and quickly noticed a difference in the Bulldogs’ locker room.

“Coming from another program, I see how you interact with each other, I see how you all care and love one another, so that made it easier for me to get to know everyone,” Etienne said in a podcast interview with Tate Ratledge.

“That’s definitely something I’d say that Florida didn’t have, our locker room wasn’t the closest. We got along, but coming here and seeing how all the guys get along, I feel like having those skull sessions, I feel like that plays a big part.”

Rising junior edge Mykel Williams said the team has already taken note of Etienne’s presence.

“He’s a great player and he’s a dynamic back,” Williams said. “I can’ wait to see what he can do for us.”

Etienne is expected to bring a home run threat to the backfield with his breakaway speed, breaking off a 62-yard run last season and an 85-yard gain his freshman season.

Ratledge already predicted Etienne would have a 200-yard game in the George backfield this season.

Smart knows all about Etienne’s talent, and the ninth-year UGA head coach is just as excited about the person inside the uniform.

“He’s high character and he’s proven that in the time he’s been here,” Smart said.

“We try to re-invent our team each and every year with a new identity. I can’t say what this team’s identity is yet, but I can say they are well on their way with defining who they are and who they want to be.”