July 13, 2024

Breaking News: Georgia bulldogs QB Bennett explained why he cannot continue with the team….

As we continue our top 10 rankings at various positions around college football, it seems our voters had as much trouble finding separation among the candidates at defensive back as receivers do when going against the defenders themselves.

This was the tightest contest so far, with a tie at the top that was broken based on the number of first-place votes each of the two contenders received from our ESPN reporters. That left Georgia’s Malaki Starks at No. 1, edging Colorado two-way star Travis Hunter, who also made our top 10 receivers list.

The bunched results did not end there. In fact, the player with the most first-place votes was Michigan’s Will Johnson, who was third overall, and five players were No. 1 on at least one ballot.

Points were assigned based on our reporters’ votes: 10 points for first place, nine for second place and down to one point for 10th place.

From the very first time Starks stepped on the field for the Bulldogs, there was a feeling that the five-star safety was different. In the first quarter of his first collegiate game Sept. 3, 2022, Starks intercepted a deep pass from Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. He high-pointed the ball and hauled it in while falling backward in Georgia’s 49-3 victory. Starks was named a freshman All-American while helping lead the Bulldogs to their second straight CFP national championship.

Last season, Starks was even better. He was named a consensus All-American after totaling 52 tackles, 3 interceptions and 7 pass breakups, which was sixth among all Power 5 safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. With safeties Tykee Smith and Javon Bullard leaving for the NFL draft, Starks will have an even more important role on the back end of Georgia’s defense this season. He could become the Bulldogs’ first two-time All-American safety since John Little in 1985-86. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior is projected to be a first-round selection in the 2025 NFL draft. — Mark Schlabach

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