Georgia football checked every box on its “need” list for the 2022 recruiting class, including grabbing two of the most versatile players in the cycle.
Five-star athlete Malaki Starks and 4-star safety Ja’Corey Thomas are two of the most fun players to watch out of this 2022 group, and both have incredibly high ceilings.
They are two of a large 29-member recruiting class that finished as the No. 3 overall class on 247Sports. Even though Alabama and Texas A&M beat them out on the rankings, Georgia did better than them both.
The Dawgs didn’t overdo it and picked up quality athletes that want to wear the Red and Black – to be elite and continue what that 2021 group started by winning another national title.
Georgia football landed two of the most versatile players, and both will get added to the secondary.
Starks is a homegrown kid out of Jefferson who played both sides in high school and played three sports overall in football, basketball, and track.
At 6-1 and 200-pounds, he will likely be the Dawgs’ next star in the secondary. He will either play there or likely at safety as Georgia could use some extra bodies there.
According to 247Sports Composite rankings, Starks was the No. 19 overall player, the No. 1 athlete, and the No. 4 player out of Georgia. He picked the Dawgs over Alabama and Clemson. Starks is one of the 18 early enrollees for the Dawgs, so he is already on campus getting some work this spring.
Then there is JaCorey Thomas, a 6-1 and 188-pound athlete who also played both ways out of Orlando that matches Starks ability to play wherever the Dawgs need him. He will likely play safety in Athens, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him bounce around.
Thomas committed to the Dawgs back on June 25 and held firm in his pledge. He ranked on 247Sports as the No. 27 safety and No. 38 player in Florida. Thomas joins Starks with the other early enrollees that will get a crash course this spring in all things Georgia football culture.
How JaCorey Thomas fits in with Georgia football
Both Starks and Thomas were parts of this class because of their versatility and ability to play anywhere. 247Sports ranked them both with a 10 in terms of versatility, so it hasn’t gone unnoticed. They are both naturally gifted athletes, which the Dawgs’ staff can do a lot within terms of development.
Thomas recorded 75 catches for 1,168 yards and 10 touchdowns in his three years playing varsity football. He also tallied 77 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, one pass deflection, four forced fumbles, and one recovery during his senior year. Thomas can do it all, and with his ability to play both ways, it’s only going to make him better on the backend.
He has excellent length and, with Georgia’s nutrition program, will only continue to fill out his 6-1 frame. Thomas can cover the slot while also providing help, which the Dawgs love in a safety. Look at Lewis Cine and how much his ability di lui to help stop the run has helped him.
Thomas has some work to do, but that is what development is for, and with head coach Kirby Smart, co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Fran Brown, that is sure to happen.
How Malaki Starks fits in with Georgia football
On the other hand, Starks is someone who could play in 2022 as a true freshman. His build and frame di lui are already ready for college ball. Like Thomas, his ability of him to play both ways helped him grow into a strong football player.
He is also extremely fast as he ran a 10.88 100-meter dash his junior season and jumped over 22 feet. Starks has excellent flexibility in his hips which allows him to play better in coverage. He has a great initial burst, making it easy for him to travel across the field.
Starks is competitive and has this grit to him – in short, and he isn’t afraid to lower that shoulder and go after a player. He could use some work with his tackling fundamentals, but being an early enrollee, the coaching staff can break bad habits sooner than later.
He has excellent twitch and is fluid – Georgia’s staff will have fun developing this guy and getting him to play up to his potential. His ceiling di lui is so high that Starks doesn’t even know how good he truly is.
Starks recorded 3,300 all-purpose yards during his three years playing varsity, accumulating 2,418 rushing yards in 33 games. Defensively, he tallied 85 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, seven pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.
A prediction for this multi-talented Georgia football athlete duo
These two players can play where Georiga needs them to, plus with them being early enrollees, whatever bad habits they have can get eliminated throughout the spring and summer. Versatility isn’t a learned trait – it comes from a player having the natural talent to play more than one position.
The coaching staff will have fun seeing how many different ways they can use Thomas and Starks. Thomas may get redshirted for depth purposes, and if we’re being even more honest, they both could, given the circumstances of Georgia’s secondary.
However, if Starks has a big spring, that redshirt could go out the window because the Dawgs could use another guy at the star or safety position. He will get some playing time if he can learn the playbook and fine-tune his game.
Both have four games they can play in and still get redshirted, so I fully expect Smart and the other coaches to see what they can handle.
Georgia will have the best secondary in the SEC the next few years, and while those 5-star corners are what most people are talking about, Starks and Thomas should be too. This duo has so much potential to play wherever that it will only make the Dawgs’ secondary that much better.