ATHENS — Of the six scholarship cornerbacks on Georgia’s roster, Kamari Lassiter arrived as the lowest-rated recruit of the bunch. He was still a 4-star prospect, yet he ranked as the No. 248 overall player in the 2021 signing class.
By comparison, the other five players were all top-100 prospects and three of them — Kelee Ringo, Jaheim Singletary and Daylen Everette — were all 5-star prospects.
Yet Lassiter has very clearly established himself as the cornerback most likely to be starting opposite Ringo in the season-opener against Oregon.
“Kamari did some nice things, gave up some plays,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Lassiter following Saturday’s scrimmage. “He had a really good day, the other day, where he made some plays on fade ball on A.D. (Mitchell). Kamari is fighting his tail off for that spot and helping us in some special teams spots.”
Related: Kamari Lassiter: Surprise of fall camp? Not to those who know what he can do
It really started to come together for Lassiter last fall, when he impressed coaches as a summer enrollee after attending American Christain Academy in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Savannah, Ga., native earned significant playing time on Georgia’s special teams units, a proven pathway to future playing time. He appeared in all 15 games and even record an interception in Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt.
Singletary, Everette and Julian Humphrey were all in high school this time last year. In the spring, only Everette was on campus getting the reps you need to play at an SEC level. Lassiter and Nyland Green meanwhile used their age to their advantage to create more distance between themselves and the talented trio of freshmen cornerbacks.
Lassiter has continued to practice well this fall, as has Green. The latter ended up redshirting last season and struggled to see the field. But he seems much more mature this year and better able to handle the rigors of playing the cornerback position for Georgia.
“Both of those kids are smart, savvy, tough, and physical,” Smart said. “I love the way they tackle and play. I thought Nyland had some good physical tackles for him. Kamari is one of the best tacklers on the team, so it’s a lot more about covering at that position than tackling.”
Related: Georgia football defense called out by Kirby Smart after first scrimmage: ‘I’m a little disappointed’
The group is working with a new position coach in Fran Brown. He is exclusively coaching cornerbacks, while co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is in charge of the safeties and the star position for Georgia.
Much like Lassiter did a season ago, Brown has impressed quickly in his new surroundings. This is the first time he has worked at an SEC school after previously working at Rutgers, Temple and Baylor.
“The guy has been awesome, and he has done a great job for us recruiting and representing us in a first-class manner,” Muschamp said of Brown. “I’m really excited about his future here at Georgia.”
The development of Lassiter continues to be a positive for the Georgia football program. It’s another testament to Georgia’s ability to recruit — the Bulldogs beat out Clemson and Auburn to land Lassiter — and develop.
But Smart also stresses the work is not done at cornerback. Even feeling comfortable with where Ringo, Lassiter and Green sit, the Georgia head coach knows the progress of those freshmen cornerbacks will be paramount for Georgia in the remaining August practices.
The Bulldogs signed six freshman defensive backs in the previous recruiting cycle. Those players — all blue-chip prospects — did not come to Georgia to ride the bench.
Related: Recent history backs up Kirby Smart’s tempered expectations for freshman defensive backs
Nor does Smart expect to leave them there. Even if Lassiter seems to have boxed a few of them out.
“I think our freshmen DBs are going to be good football players,” Smart said. “That does not mean that I am saying they are going to go out there and start. Our freshmen DBs are going to help us. All of those guys have shown a sign of, ‘man, he is going to be okay. He is going to be able to help us. He is going to be a good player.’ Eric Stokes didn’t do a lot his freshman year.
“It is just one of those things that those guys are going to grow into those positions. Now I think your freshmen are your backups because you don’t have the depth.”
Kirby Smart updates Georgia cornerback battle after first scrimmage
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