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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks to players on the sideline at the 2021 Duke's Mayo Classic at the Bank of America Stadium. The University of Georgia Bulldogs beat the Clemson Tigers 10-3 during their season opener on Sept. 4, 2021, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

The Georgia secondary, a position group with much to prove this season, held the Clemson offense to three points in the season opener on Saturday night, alongside the rest of a highly-touted Georgia defense.

The Bulldogs were tasked with replacing six contributors in the secondary during the offseason, and several renewed faces in the backfield made an impact in the Bulldogs' early season victory. Senior safety Christopher Smith, who had started in only five previous games, opened the season at safety for the Bulldogs and led the way with a second quarter pick-six, to open the game’s scoring.

That defensive injection capped a first half characterized by stout defensive play and inconsistent offensive momentum.

“We had been working that play all week and trying to perfect our disguise on that play,” Smith said. “We got a good route concept and he showed it outside and I broke inside, and he threw it right to me. The rest is history.”

Smith’s performance was one of several that transcended the defense. The Bulldogs’ secondary helped limit any explosive plays from the Clemson offensive attack, and contributed to a first half that granted the Tigers less than 100 total yards.

Junior safety Lewis Cine also stabilized a budding secondary for the Bulldogs with nine tackles, and commanded a relatively inexperienced backfield. Cine was integral to the secondary’s Saturday night performance, and delivered the status of a veteran player.

“We’re going to go in tomorrow, watch film and put this game to rest,” Smith said. “We’re going to get ready for our next opponent. We’re always focused on getting better, no matter the outcome of the game.”

Defensive back Latavious Brini saw extended snaps at the nickel/star position for Georgia and contributed with 4 tackles and one pass breakup, including a pass defense in the Bulldogs’ endzone during the third quarter. Brini, who also started in last season’s bowl game, gives the Bulldogs needed depth within the secondary.

Ameer Speed, in his first start at corner for Georgia recorded two tackles, one of the solo variety, and was relied on in the fourth quarter to assure corner stability and provide additional big game minutes.

Redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo, who was sidelined with a shoulder season last fall, started and saw significant minutes at the corner position. Ringo saw his first snaps of his collegiate career and ranks among the youngest members of the Bulldog secondary.

“We talked about two words: composure and attention to detail,” said head coach Kirby Smart. “The team really handled it well and played to our standard.”

Although a lot of the talk coming into this game circled around the offense, the Georgia secondary played a substantial role in the Week 1 victory. And despite a relative feeling of inexperience at the back, Georgia’s secondary took a step to assert their ability in week one’s win.