Why DB Tykee Smith's transfer to Georgia solves a big problem for Kirby Smart in 2021
It’s no secret that one of the missing pieces for a Georgia football team hoping to make a national championship run in 2021 was help in the secondary.
Kirby Smart practically put out a “help wanted” ad earlier this spring and he doubled down on UGA’s need for experience in the secondary following the team’s first scrimmage, so it was big news when the Bulldogs landed impact transfer Tykee Smith from West Virginia.
The playmaking nickel-back/safety reunites with former WVU position coach Jahmile Addae, who was hired by Georgia this offseason, and has 3 seasons of eligibility remaining, but what the Bulldogs mainly care about right now is Smith’s potential impact on a loaded 2021 team that just needs a couple of tweaks.
“I’m just going to come in, put in the work, and get the respect from my teammates and help them do anything I can do to help the team win,” Smith told UGASports.com.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 5, 2021
Over 2 seasons, Smith was highly productive for the Mountaineers, earning third-team All-American honors in 2020 after recording 61 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 2 interceptions and 8.0 tackles for loss.
The advanced analytics highlighted Smith’s impact on defense even more, with Pro Football Focus noting that the 5-11 defensive back committed zero penalties and allowed just 110 total yards on 38 targets — good for a 90.0 coverage grade. This offseason, PFF also rated Smith as the No. 5 returning defensive back in all of college football.
Georgia transfer Tykee Smith was targeted 38 times last season. Yards allowed ⬇️
BG: 0 pic.twitter.com/4cd5a5vNPH
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 5, 2021
Smith’s transfer is a big boost for Smart & Co., and it’s not the first time the 6th-year head coach has inserted a veteran DB transfer into his defense at UGA.
While the comparisons aren’t perfect, the Bulldogs certainly hope Smith will have a similar impact to another Smith 5 seasons ago.
In 2016, Maurice Smith followed Smart from Alabama and transferred to Georgia. The senior filled an open spot at Star/nickel and delivered a strong season as a veteran presence and productive playmaker (50 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2.0 tackles for loss). Smith even earned team defensive MVP honors.
Tykee Smith has the opportunity to do that … and more on a squad that hopes to compete for a playoff berth.
The WVU transfer has more upside than Maurice Smith, and while he must learn a complex defense this offseason, he’s already proven on film he can do everything — cover man-to-man, blitz, play zone, set the edge, etc. — expected from perhaps the most demanding position in Smart and coordinator Dan Lanning’s scheme.
Smith played the “Spear” for the Mountaineers, a spot similar to the Star position at Georgia. While he also has the versatility to play safety, both the film and stats prove he best served inside, and that’s just fine for the Bulldogs.
Although the Bulldogs must replace future NFL cornerbacks Tyson Campbell, Eric Stokes and DJ Daniel, they at least have some options on the perimeter. Before’s Smith’s transfer though, that couldn’t be said as strongly about who might play such a crucial position for Smart and Lanning.
Over the last 2 seasons, Tyrique Stevenson, who transferred back home to Miami, and Mark Webb, off to the NFL, split snaps at nickel for UGA, but their voids left the Bulldogs with no obvious replacements. Try a talented but raw freshman inside? See if veterans Latavious Brini or William Poole would make a leap?
With so much youth and uncertainty, Lanning has even experimented some this spring tinkering with top pass rusher Adam Anderson at Star — similarly to how Georgia utilized Lorenzo Carter at times in 2017.
Brini, Anderson or others could still find snaps at nickel/Star some this fall, but Smith’s addition solves a major piece of the puzzle for a Georgia secondary looking for answers.
At nearly 200 pounds, Smith has a thick frame and can play in the box as a physical body against the run or cover slot receivers and tight ends. According to PFF, Smith has the third-best slot coverage grade of any FBS player since 2019.
While Stevenson and Webb were solid for Georgia, neither was great at creating dynamic plays, combining for just 2 career interceptions. Smith has 4 alone in just 2 seasons.
Overall, Smith immediately raises the floor for a Georgia defense already expected to be very stout to potentially elite. He eliminates one obvious concern and gives Smart, Lanning and Addae another experienced toy to deploy in a variety of ways in the secondary.