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Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith (29) runs with the ball at the 2021 Duke's Mayo Classic held at the Bank of America Stadium. The University of Georgia Bulldogs lead the Clemson Tigers 7-0 at halftime on Sept. 4, 2021, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Safety Christopher Smith will return for a fifth season with Georgia in 2022, opting not to enter the 2022 NFL Draft. The senior took to twitter on Friday to announce his decision.

Smith was a key member of the Georgia secondary in 2021, making 34 tackles and intercepting three passes in 12 games. He has a fifth year of eligibility due to the NCAA granting all players the option of an extra year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two of Smith’s interceptions this season came in huge spots, with his 74-yard interception return off a DJ Uiagelelei pass proving to be the difference in the Bulldogs’ 10-3 victory over Clemson in the season opener. Smith also intercepted Alabama’s Bryce Young early in the third quarter of the National Championship game.

Smith’s return is positive news for a Georgia defense that will lose a lot of key pieces to the NFL Draft, as players like Derion Kendrick, Devonte Wyatt, Channing Tindall and Jordan Davis have already announced their intentions to turn pro. Others like Nakobe Dean, Nolan Smith and Travon Walker will have to make decisions of their own as well.

Smith will assume a leadership role as a seasoned member of the defense, and if fellow defensive back Tykee Smith also chooses to return, the Bulldogs will have two highly experienced safeties on the back end next season.

Roster turnover is a constant factor in the college football landscape, but it’s always good for a program to have veteran leaders who can help mentor the younger players as well as providing a stabilizing presence on the field. Smith is a perfect example of a player who can fill both of those roles for the Bulldogs next season.