Cornerback is expected to be one of the Las Vegas Raiders' biggest needs next offseason as their top three players on the depth chart, Trayvon Mullen, Rock Ya-Sin, and Anthony Averett, have contracts that expire at the end of the year. While there’s still plenty of time between now and when Dave Ziegler, Josh McDaniels and the Raiders’ brass have to solve that problem, one guy to keep an eye on is Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo.
Ringo was a five-star recruit and the No. 1 corner in the 2020 class coming out of high school. However, a torn labrum in his shoulder sidelined him as a true freshman and he only has one season of college experience.
The Georgia product was impressive in that lone campaign though, allowing just 24 catches on 59 targets (40.7 completion percentage), 346 yards and a passer rating of 63.2 when targeted. His completion percentage surrendered ranked third among SEC cornerbacks, and he finished second with 20.6 coverage snaps per reception yielded, three spots ahead of the Buffalo Bills' first-round pick Kaiir Elam.
While the numbers are impressive, to me, what makes Ringo stand out the most is his football IQ and that can only really be seen on film.
Kelee Ringo helps create a sack by taking the curl away pic.twitter.com/qSGniHEiCB— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 4, 2022
This is a great example of how Ringo’s mental processing and eye discipline can help him impact the play without having to make a play on the ball.
Georgia is running cover seven and Ringo is on the wide side of the field where the defense has a three over two advantage, meaning three defensive backs to cover two wide receivers, and they’re pattern matching. He does a great job of positioning himself to read the QB and still be able to see any potential threats post-snap. That allows him to pounce on the curl once the quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, gets his eyes around to take that throw away.
You can see Uiagalelei wants to go there as he pumps to the curl, but he has the pull the ball down and start scrambling, giving Jalen Carter more than enough time to come up with the sack.
So, Ringo not only took away a potential first down but also helped force a sack to create a third and long and potentially take Clemson out of field goal range.
Similar to the last play Kelee Ringo recognizes the short route and ounces on it to give UGA’s DL more than enough time to hit home pic.twitter.com/aAngubhzKm— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 4, 2022
This next clip is the very next play and produces a similar result.
The Bulldogs are playing man this time and it looks like they are having the safeties bracket the slot receivers, which means Ringo won’t have as much help over the top and will have to play the receiver with more depth to avoid getting beat. The safety can come help over the top if the slot receiver/No. 2 runs a shorter route, but he’ll be later than if it were just traditional two-man and where he’s working for width off the snap.
However, Ringo’s man ends up running a short route and it looks like Uiagalelei was just trying to get the ball out quickly to his wideout to potentially get back in field goal range. Instead, Ringo is quick to recognize the curl and pounces on it to take the easy throw away and Georgia’s defensive line hits home again.
Another play where the corner keeps points off the board without making a play on the ball.
Beautiful close by Kelee Ringo to get a TFL pic.twitter.com/Cgexu7VGXP— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 4, 2022
We’re going to see a textbook example of how to play cover two as the curl/flat defender on this rep.
Georgia does a good job of disguising the coverage by having the nickel corner follow the wide receiver in motion pre-snap, so Will Levis, Kentucky’s quarterback, thinks it’s man coverage. However, the Bulldogs drop into a zone so Ringo lets the receiver he’s lined up across from run by and gets his eyes on Levis.
The corner does a great job of staying deep which, combined with the disguised coverage, makes the quarterback check it down and the corner reads the throw and drives on the flat route by the motion wide receiver.
With good closing speed and a solid tackle to wrap up the wideout’s legs, Ringo notches a tackle for loss and forces Kentucky into a third and long.
Kelee Ringo get his own sack this time by stemming/setting up the TE on the inside and winning with speed to the outside pic.twitter.com/skWQOIvEWt— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 4, 2022
Our next clip isn’t quite what you’re expecting from a corner but it is one hell of a pass rush.
Ringo lines up basically as an outside linebacker with the two tight ends to the boundary from Kentucky. It’s hard to tell if he is blitzing no matter what or if this is a green dog blitz, meaning the defender can rush the quarterback if his man stays into block, but regardless, he does a great job of getting up the field in a hurry to put pressure on the outside tight end.
Ringo even does a great job of stemming to the inside to force the tight end to honor the inside move and subsequently open up the outside lane. Then, he executes a nice dip and rip move and finishes with a sack to put Kentucky in second and 19 from about the 45. That’ll change an offensive coordinator’s approach to the next two play calls as Kentucky is now well outside of field goal range.
Kelee Ringo comes off his man to make the tackle on the TE and force a short gain pic.twitter.com/ajjjg9DoVg— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 4, 2022
Here we’re going to see another excellent example of instincts to help out a teammate and limit what could have been a disastrous play.
Georgia is in man coverage and Alabama runs an RPO that works like a play-action pass with the run fake and split zone action by the tight end running the flat route. The run fake gets the inside linebacker to come downhill and since the safety was giving a two-high look pre-snap, the tight end is wide open in the flat and has a chance to get a big gain if he can make the safety miss in open space.
Ringo is locked onto his man, but he does an excellent job of recognizing that his receiver is blocking instead of running a route. So, he comes off his man to make the tackle in the flat and does a great job of wrapping up and with his pad level to prevent the tight end from getting extra yards and limiting the offense to a short gain.
Tackling is another element of the Bulldog’s game that is impressive. He consistently wraps up and uses good pad level to make contact around the offensive player’s waist instead of diving at their feet, which is an issue a lot of younger corners have.