With apologies to College Football Playoff Championship MVP Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia's defense was the primary reason for their 2021 title. Even with coordinator Dan Lanning off to Oregon and many of the key contributors going to the NFL, this side of the ball will remain a strength going forward. Defense is Kirby Smart's baby, and there are still plenty of high-level athletes that can create havoc.
Thrown into that mix are the elite group of prospects Georgia has signed this cycle. The nation's No. 3 class, according to 247Sports, featured five 5-star recruits on their composite index, all of whom play defense. Three of those players are already on campus and may have a leg up on gaining early playing time, but all five will get a serious look come fall.
Here are the five 5-stars with thoughts on why they could make an impact.
Daylen Everette, CB
The IMG Academy product is the complete package. At 6-foot-1, he has the perfect size to defend on the outside. Unlike many corners with that length, Everette has impressive speed and change-of-direction skills, allowing him to be effective against many types of receivers. The native of Virginia originally committed to Clemson and considered Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida State.
Marvin Jones Jr., DE
The son of former Florida State All-American and longtime NFL veteran Marvin Jones is still learning the position after transitioning from wide receiver earlier in his high school career. But at 6-foot-4, 245-pounds, Jones is explosive and should develop into one of the nation's best pass rushers, a skill that could get him on the field sooner than later. Jones officially visited Alabama, Oklahoma, and USC before settling on Georgia.
Jaheim Singletary, CB
Like Everette, the 6-foot-2 Singletary has corner length that can't be taught. The Georgia staff will test him against speed receivers early on, but if he shows that he can handle those assignments, his aggressiveness and physicality could get him on the field this fall. Singletary checked out Florida, Ohio State, and Miami before committing to Georgia.
Malaki Starks, S
Or maybe linebacker. It all depends on how his body and skills develop. But with a depth chart that has vacancies at safety, he should get his first crack in the defensive backfield. Athletically, Starks is one of the most gifted players in the Class of 2022, and enrolling early will be a huge benefit as it provides high-quality reps. The Jefferson, Ga., native committed to Georgia in March of 2021, but Alabama and Clemson were part of the mix early in the process.
Mykel Williams, DL
Starks was rated as the No. 2 player coming out of Georgia in 2022. Williams was No. 1, and he is the highest-rated prospect in the Bulldogs' class. Despite being 6-foot-5, 265-pounds, the Columbus, Ga., recruit has the necessary skill set to play out on the edge. Eventually, he may grow into an interior player, but it is likely that Georgia starts him at end. The one-time USC commit had offers from just about every major program in the country.
– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for more than five years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.