ATHENS – Want to see cool under pressure? Watch the video of Georgia’s Kamari Lassiter’s post-practice interview from last week.
A feeble lectern microphone collapsed as Lassiter ever-so-delicately tried to pull it closer to his face. But the junior cornerback was undeterred. Smiling briefly as reporters laughed at the unexpected prat fall, Lassiter continued unimpeded with his answer to a question about what he’d seen from Georgia’s many newcomers in the defensive backfield.
“Those guys, they’re just hungry,” said Lassiter, watching the long, skinny microphone slip through the desktop and fall to his feet. “They want to get better every day. They want to learn from their mistakes and do anything to make the team better, really.”
The humorous interlude provided a perfect metaphor for what the Bulldogs have in the Lassiter. Signing with Georgia literally from the Alabama Crimson Tide’s backyard – he attended American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa, Ala. – he showed up in the spring of 2021 and became an immediate contributor in 30 games leading to two national championships over two seasons.
That he’s back for a third season with the Bulldogs’ defense is a significant development. Last season, Lassiter started at the cornerback position opposite of All-American Kelee Ringo. With Ringo and All-American safety Christopher Smith now moved on to the NFL, he suddenly find himself as a leader in the secondary.
“My role this year is to become a better leader, a more vocal guy that leads by example,” said Lassiter, still undistracted as a sports communications staffer unsuccessfully attempted to remount the microphone. “We’ve got a lot of midyears this spring, so I’m just trying to bring those guys along.”
This is not an uncommon dilemma for the Bulldogs. The last few years, it seems, they have had an inordinate amount of turnover in the defensive backfield. That extends beyond the position players to the coaching staff, where there have been three different secondary coaches in as many years. Fran Brown, who joined the team from Rutgers last year, was the latest.
“He was my third coach and it was, like, ‘here we go again,’” Lassiter said. “But he’s come in and treated me and the rest of the guys like family. He really cares about us, he loves us, he’s willing to go the extra mile with us in the film room, getting up early every day to help us with our technique or watching film, or just getting in that extra workout.”
Co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is another voice in the defensive backs’ ears as he oversees the safeties, as well. But both Brown and Muschamp know they have another coach on the field in Lassiter.
The 6-foot, 180-pound athlete, who originally hails from Savannah, has been incredibly dependable for the Bulldogs. He has played in all 30 games since joining the team, including 15 starts last season. Last year, Lassiter accounted for 38 tackles, had a season-high 5 stops and a pass breakup in the win over then-No. 1 Tennessee. To date, he has had just one interception, which came against Vanderbilt in 2021.
The last two seasons, Ringo typically played on the right side of the Georgia defense, or the offense’s left, but the Bulldogs might switch them, according to a particular matchup they might want. The last two seasons, at least, Georgia did not differentiate between “boundary” or “field” corner.
How they might handle it this season is unclear. What is certain, though, is that Lassiter will be play a frontline role.
Who might be opposite of him remains a mystery. An intense competition is under way between sophomores Daylen Everette and Nyland Green to occupy Ringo’s abandoned post. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Julian Humphrey, transfer Smoke Bouie and four incoming freshmen are trying to earn a role as well.
The goal for all of them is for Georgia to stay on a roll. If the Bulldogs are to have a slip-up in 2023 after winning back-to-back national titles, they’re determined that it won’t be because of any defensive shortcomings.
“We’re motivated to avoid being complacent,” Lassiter said. “If we stay stagnant, people will catch up to us. It’s just not wanting to lose at Georgia. We want to win every game, so the will to win is our motivator.”
If Lassiter’s problem-solving skills are any indicator, the Bulldogs will get it done on defense. With the microphone in front of him still unstable, Lassiter gently pulled it from its mount and laid it across the bottom lip of the lectern. And never was his anecdotal delivery interrupted.
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