Pro Football Focus (PFF) released their top 10 returning college safeties list for the 2021 regular season and Georgia safety Tykee Smith was ranked No. 1 after transferring to the Bulldogs from West Virginia this offseason.
Smith is expected to play the STAR position for the Bulldogs in 2021. His combination of size, physicality and football instincts make him a natural fit for the position.
He already played as an overhang defender in the Mountaineers' defense. From that spot, he was able to log 61 tackles and added two interceptions in 2020.
Smith will be joined by his former West Virginia safeties coach Jahmile Addae, who is now the defensive backs coach at Georgia.
Smith and Addae led the nation's best pass defense in 2020, where the Mountaineers allowed only 159.6 passing yards per game. This is even more impressive considering that West Virginia plays in the pass-happy Big 12.
Smith has a chance to be a breakout star this season. Georgia has one of the most stout front sevens in the entire country, which should provide Smith the opportunity to make one-on-one plays in coverage and run support.
Coming into this season, Georgia desperately needed someone to play STAR. Defensive back Latavious Brini is the current backup at the position, but has seen limited playing time in his career.
True freshman David Daniel is currently learning the position, but won't be ready when the season starts. That isn't a knock on Daniel, but an indicator on how difficult the STAR position is to learn.
That in turn makes the Smith transfer the biggest get of the offseason so far. The defensive staff can simply insert him into the lineup and let him wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
At the moment, Smith is regarded as a Day-3 pick in next year's NFL Draft. Many project that this season will do wonders for his draft stock, and he could potentially see his name rise to the top of Day 1.
Here is what PFF had to say about their No. 1 safety in all of college football:
"Smith’s 2020 campaign was a sight to behold. He was targeted 38 times in coverage across 10 games and allowed just 110 yards for the season. He did not give up a single explosive pass play of 15 or more yards while making five plays on the ball and forcing 10 passing stops. At 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, Smith is a physical player who shed receiver blocks and blew up screens like clockwork in 2020. He has great eyes in coverage and was never caught off guard. Keep an eye on Smith next season — he’s the real deal."
Smith was ranked ahead of top prospects such as Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton and Alabama's Malachi Moore.
The full top 10 includes a host of safeties the Dawgs will have to face this upcoming season:
1. Tykee Smith, Georgia
2. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
3. Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
4. Malachi Moore, Alabama
5. Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
6. Tre Sterling, Oklahoma State
7. Jordan Battle, Alabama
8. Bralen Trahan, Louisiana
9. Jalen Catalon, Arkansas
10. Keith Gallmon, South Alabama
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