INDIANAPOLIS — The Georgia football program is holding together amid scrutiny and national criticism, according to cornerback Kelee Ringo.
Ringo, appearing at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, was bombarded with questions about the program’s recent string of alcohol-related and road racing arrests.
“We continue to stay together and stay connected,” Ringo said during his media presentation on Thursday. “I don’t think that anything is going to bring us apart at the University of Georgia.
“I feel like how strong it will continue to be is something that will speak out to the rest of the nation.”
The two-time defending national champion Bulldogs have certainly continued to hold strong on the field and into the NFL Draft evaluation process.
Georgia captain Nolan Smith ran a 4.39-second time in the 40-yard dash on Thursday, likely cementing himself as a first-round NFL pick, and Ringo is expected to run in the low 4.3 range on Friday.
Off the field, however, a series of arrests over the past six months to high-profile Georgia players Stetson Bennett, Javon Bullard, Jamon Dumas-Johnson and projected Top 5 pick Jalen Carter has attracted national attention.
Indeed, five of the Bulldogs’ game captains from the 2022 season have been arrested for various offenses over the past year.
An ongoing investigation into a tragic car accident that killed recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy and Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock has kept the program under the microscope.
But Ringo, who famously returned an interception 79 yards for a TD to clinch a 33-18 win over Alabama just more than a year ago at Lucas Oil Stadium, said the incidents are not a reflection of the team culture.
“I would say that has nothing to do with the program, and I would say different people have their different reasons for what they do,” Ringo said. “To be a grown man, you have to be responsible for you are doing, specifically.”
Ringo, to his credit, did not attempt to sugarcoat any of the transgressions that led to the arrests.
“Character-wise, I don’t have anything to say about any of my teammates,” Ringo said. “To whom much is given, much is to be expected, and you have to realize that.”
But when it came to defending the program, and explaining the culture Smart has built, Ringo was firm.
“It starts with coaches and the players holding each other accountable,” Ringo said. “A lot of times, with the coaches holding that standard, it takes you far.
“But it’s much different when the team is like, ‘hey bro you got to lock in, you have to be able to do this or that,’ because you build that relationship with each other, and you’re able to come down on each other when you need to, and it’s respected.”
Smart will soon be emphasizing — if he hasn’t already — that sort of accountability applies off the field, too.
As for on the field, Ringo shared just how much is at stake every single day.
“The standard at the University of Georgia is like no other,” Ringo said. “The preparation that Coach Smart gives to us, and the standard he holds us to every day, we know there’s going to be tough coaching, and we know that he means to make us better in everything he does.
“Every single day, it feels like a tryout at the University of Georgia. I feel like holding that standard .. definitely helped us grow as a team.”
9:30 a.m.: Darnell Washington
10:30 a.m.: Stetson Bennett
11:10 a.m.: Kearis Jackson
8 a.m. Warren McClendon
9:40 a.m. Kenny McIntosh
10:50 a.m. Broderick Jones