IMPORTANT UPDATE REGARDING UGA FOOTBALL’S SPRING PRACTICE:
Friday, March 13, 2020, 4:00 p.m. ET: The SEC announced that all organized team activities, including competitions, team, and individual practices, meetings, and other organized gatherings, will be suspended through April 15th. This includes spring football practices, scrimmages, and games.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET: The SEC has announced all regular-season conference and non-conference competitions are cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-20 athletic year This includes all spring football games and remaining SEC championship events, due to continuing developments related to the coronavirus.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have been taking this journey through Bulldawg Illustrated’s 2020 Football Primer with us, we have come down to the last article in the series. Today it is all about the secondary and those Bulldog defensive backs.
Georgia returns the majority of it’s secondary in 2020 with the exception of safety J.R. Reed and defensive back Tyrique McGhee. Sophomore safety Otis Reese ended up transferring, but the big news was safety Richard LeCounte announcing his decision to return for his senior season. Also back are senior defensive backs DJ Daniel and Mark Webb along with junior cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes. Juniors Latavious Brini, William Poole, Christopher Smith, and Ameer Speed also return as well as redshirt sophomore Divaad Wilson, sophomore Lewis Cine, and sophomore Tyrique Stevenson.
This veteran group will be led by LeCounte at his safety position; so, let’s start there.
Richard LeCounte signed with the Bulldogs as part of Kirby Smart’s second recruiting class at UGA in 2017 out of Liberty County High School, Riceboro, GA. Since then, LeCounte has played in 38 games over the last three seasons, starting all 14 last year for the Dawgs. LeCounte led all defensive backs with 61 stops last season after coming off a team-leading 74 stops in 2018. He also led the team in interceptions, nabbing two in Georgia’s 26-14 Sugar Bowl victory over Baylor on January 1st. The vocal leader will be looking to don the “Savage Spike Pads” even more in 2020.
But who will be playing alongside LeCounte at the other safety spot vacated by Reed?
With Reese transferring, the likely candidate will be Lewis Cine. The 6-foot-1 and 185 lbs DB impressed as a true freshman, playing in all 14 games for the Bulldogs and earning back-to-back starts at the end of the season in the SEC Championship game versus LSU and the Sugar Bowl Game. He finished with 20 total stops, with over half of those coming in those final two games… six vs. LSU and another six vs. Baylor. Cine is long and rangy, and he comes downhill with bad intentions.
Mark Webb, Jr. will also be in the mix, and regardless of whether or not he earns a start at safety, he will be involved heavily in the rotation. The 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs Philadelphia, PA native came to Georgia as a wide receiver as part of the Bulldogs 2017 recruiting class along with another fellow Philadelphian, running back D’Andre Swift. Webb made the switch to defense during his freshman year and hasn’t looked back. If I could pick one word to describe Webb it would be “versatile.” He can play safety, corner or STAR. And it was STAR where Webb made his living in 2019, playing in all 14 of Georgia’s games, starting 9 of those at STAR.
Webb was fifth on the team in total tackles with 46, only behind safeties LeCounte and Reed in the secondary. 31 of those were solo stops, too. He also had four quarterback pressures and three pass break-ups.
Speaking of the STAR position, which we see more than the SAM OLB on the field as Georgia is a Nickle package with five defensive backs more so than their base 3-4 defense, a name to watch is sophomore Tyrique Stevenson.
The 6-foot-0 and 202 lbs south Florida star signed with the Bulldogs as part of their 2019 recruiting class out of Miami Southridge High School, and he played a lot as a true freshman, participating in all 14 games for Georgia.
Competing at STAR will be redshirt sophomore Divaad Wilson, who could also factor in the battle at safety. The 6-foot-0 and 195 lbs Wilson signed with Georgia as part of the Bulldogs 2018 recruiting class out of Miami-Northwestern High School taking a redshirt his freshman year. He played in 13 of the Bulldogs’ 14 games and earned a start at STAR versus Notre Dame and Kentucky. He was not able to play in the Sugar Bowl due to an injury but should be good to go once the team is able to start practicing for 2020.
Tyson Campbell, DJ Daniel, and Eric Stokes are the three main players battling for playing time at cornerback but Stevenson has the ability to also play at corner.
Campbell is coming off a frustrating season where he battled a turf toe injury causing him to miss five games after starting the first three for the Dawgs. One benefit of spring practice being cancelled is that he should be well recovered and ready to go as soon as the team is able to practice.
Stokes was the most consistent starter at corner, with 13 starts out of Georgia’s 14 games. Although Stokes is still waiting on his first interception as a Bulldog, he led the team in pass break-ups last season and has a nose at diagnosing plays and breaking down pass plays.
Daniel came to the Bulldogs as a JUCO transfer out of Georgia Military College in 2019, and the 6-foot-1 and 185 lbs defensive back quickly made the most of his opportunity by playing in 13 of Georgia’s 14 games, starting 11. Daniel made 42 stops last year, which put him sixth-best on the team right behind Webb.
Joining this talented group of Bulldog defensive backs are four defensive backs who signed with UGA as part their 2020 recruiting class. Two of those signees, Major Burns and Jalen Kimber, enrolled early in January.
Burns is a 6-foot-2 and 176 lbs, four-star defensive back out of Madison Prep Academy, Baton Rouge, LA. He’ll be competing at safety but needs to add some weight to his frame to take on the rigors of playing in the SEC at that position. Kimber is a 6-foot-0 and 170 lbs, four-star cornerback out of Mansfield Timberview High School, Arlington, TX.
The other defensive back signees will join the team this summer after graduating high school in May. Probably the most anticipated defensive back signee since perhaps Champ Bailey is Kelee Ringo, a 6-foot-2 and 205 lbs, five-star cornerback signee out of Sanguaro High School, Scottsdale, AZ. A talented athlete whose highlights at running back and receiver are as impressive as those on defense, Ringo will compete for playing time and likely earn a good chunk of it this season as a true freshman.
The other defensive back newcomer that will join the team this summer is Amite High School, Amite, LA Darren Branch, a 6-foot-2 and 178 lbs three-star signee.
It should be a fun group to watch compete, and the secondary should also be a strength of the football team in 2020 complimenting the defensive line and linebacking corps which also return a plethora of talent.
We hope you have enjoyed the 2020 Georgia Football Primer Series, and if you happened to miss one, just look below.