Tyrique Stevenson now figures to become even bigger piece in Georgia football defense
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After Divaad Wilson enters transfer portal, Tyrique Stevenson seems in-line for larger role
Georgia seeing defensive back Divaad Wilson enter the transfer portal on Monday is certainly a loss for the team and secondary. Beyond his infectious energy and being beloved by teammates, Wilson was also a good player when called upon.
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Wilson made a number of huge plays in Georgia’s win over Notre Dame this season, including a critical interception in the second half.
Now Georgia has to replace Wilson, who spent much of his time working out of the Money positions for Georgia. He served as a hybrid defensive back, someone who is able to play either cornerback and safety for the Georgia defense. This past season, he shared the role with Mark Webb, who also worked at Star. In the latter part of the season though, sophomore Tyrqiue Stevenson really entered the mix with Wilson.
Webb and Stevenson will both return for the 2020 season and figure to battle for both the Star and Money positions. Webb is the superior run defender, which is why he was more often working on early and rushing downs.
Wilson though excelledd more in coverage as the Money defender. And that’s where the promising Stevenson figures to step in this season.
Stevenson is one of the many talented sophomores on the defensive side of the ball that Georgia coach Kirby Smart spoke about on a recent ESPN podcast.
“The biggest leap you make is from year one to year two, and I’m expecting those guys, the Nakobe Deans, the Travon Walkers, the Tyrique Stevensons, Lewis Cines, there’s some talented young freshman on that defense that I think are going to step up and be good players,” Smart told David Pollack and Kevin Neghandi.
So even prior to Wilson’s decision, the expectations for Stevenson were high. Part of this goes back to his recruiting profile, as Stevenson was a near 5-star member of the 2019 signing class as he entered the program ranked as the No. 37 recruit in the cycle. He was also the highest-rated defensive back Georgia signed in the class.
Smart has had no qualms about putting freshmen into the secondary, and Stevenson was no different. While it took him time during his freshman season to make an impact, he found more playing time as the season progressed.
His most tangible impact came in the Auburn win, as he sacked Auburn quarterback Bo Nix on third down. He also had five pass break-ups on the season.
CB Tyrique Stevenson (@dreamchaserTy10) with the SACK!!!!
— GEORGIA HEROES (@GeorgiaHeroes) November 16, 2019
Earning playing time won’t be a walk in the park though for Stevenson, even after Wilson entered the transfer portal. Georgia brings back corners Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell and DJ Daniel, who all have starting experience. Richard LeCounte returns for his third season as a starter at safety for Georgia and figures to be one of the leaders of the entire program.
Stevenson also isn’t the only sophomore looking to take on a bigger role for Georgia in the secondary, as the aforementioned Cine figures to replace J.R. Reed at the other starting safety spot. And there’s Webb as well, who has 10 career starts to his name.
That’s all before mentioning that Georgia signed the No. 1 defensive back in the country in Kelee Ringo, along with fellow 2021 signees Jalen Kimber, Major Burns, Daran Branch. Stevenson is fighting for playing time in perhaps the best secondary in the country.
So Stevenson is going to have to earn that extra playing time for him to make the leap Smart was speaking about. And if he’s going to do that, it will be due to his athleticism.
Watch the clip of the sack again. Stevenson initially shoots past Nix and the running back in charge of blocking him. But as Nix steps up and scoots to the outside, Stevenson recovers and chases down Nix. And the Auburn quarterback isn’t exactly statue, as he scored one of two rushing touchdowns on the Georgia defense all season later in the game.
That’s what Stevenson can bring to the Georgia defense. He’s a playmaker, and that is something the group does need more of if it is going to continue to improve year over year. Other than LeCounte and Cine, none of the players listed above have an interception, including Stevenson.
To get the most out of that upside, he’ll need to make sure he’s able to prevent big plays in the Georgia secondary. Only Utah and Iowa gave up fewer plays of 20-plus yards on a per-game basis than Georgia did in 2019. The Bulldogs have ranked in the top-10 in that category in each of the past two seasons and would like to again in 2020.
Stevenson was always going to have a chance to make a bigger impact as a sophomore, as he had another full off-season in the Georgia program. Now that the experienced Wilson is looking for an opportunity closer to home, it’s become more clear as to what the role might be. And it will be up to him to take advantage of it and live up to praise Smart, one of the top defensive minds in the country, has given him heading into his sophomore season.
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