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What Javon Bullard's Return Means to Georgia's Defense

Georgia's defense will get back their starting nickel corner Javon Bullard on Saturday against the Auburn Tigers, here's what it means for Georgia's depth chart on defense.

The No. 2 ranked Georiga Bulldogs will play host to the unranked Auburn Tigers on Saturday afternoon inside Sanford Stadium, and after a one-game suspension, starting defensive back Javon Bullard is expected to return to the lineup for the Bulldogs, per head coach Kirby Smart.

So, with the starting STAR from games 1 through 4 returning, what does it mean for Georgia's depth chart?

Well, Georgia started senior defensive back and former All-American at West Virginia, Tykee Smith at the STAR position against Missouri. Smith played all but two snaps of Saturday's game and played admirably considering the assignment. This is a football player who Kirby Smart has referred to as 90%.

Smart talked about Smith this week in his media availability:

"He's (Tykee) done everything we've asked. He has an unfortunate injury that happens. There are guys walking all over the NFL with the same injury he had. I still think there are guys who are better the next year after that injury, and he's in the first year recovering from it. He's done a really good job with that. He's very bright, and he's very conscientious. Those two things will get you far when you're intelligent. He asks really smart questions. He takes the initiative to watch a lot of tape. He's done everything we've asked, and he's a great kid." - Smart on Tykee Smith

Who Will Get The Start at STAR?

This isn't a cop-out answer, but Auburn runs more 12 personnel than any football team Georgia will play that isn't themselves in practice. Of all weeks, this is the week where the "STAR" position will actually be occupied quite a bit by the SAM. Georgia responds to two tight end formations with what Kirby Smart refers to as "regular" personnel, meaning two outside linebackers are on the field — insert Robert Beal.

That being said, Auburn, like all teams in modern college football will spread it out via 11 personnel. So, Georgia will need to play their Nickel package. I'll take you back to a comment Smart had earlier in the year, where he alluded to playing different players at that STAR position based on the game plan that week for the opponent. There are some weeks where Georgia feels like they need to pressure the box and play man coverage, and there are some weeks where Georgia needs to sit back in zones.

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  • Based on that assessment, it's safe to say this is one of those weeks where, considering Auburn's tendency to run the football (57% of downs) out of heavy personnel, Georgia will be needing Javon Bullard's skillset in this particular football game.

Not that Tykee Smith can't do those things, he certainly can. But as you read in Smart's statement above, Smith's traits of cerebral play mixed with instinctual capabilities that put him in the right place at the right time are suited for the true spread when zone coverage is a must. Both will play Saturday, but the gameplan will likely suit No. 22.

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