Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart has raved about freshman safety Malaki Starks during camp. The ‘Dawgs defense has to replace household names like number one overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft Trayvon Walker and legends such as Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean. However, Starks showed flashes as he finished with a team high eight tackles and a dynamic interception as Georgia routed the Oregon Ducks 49-3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday afternoon.

After the game, Smart gave Starks credit for his play in the game and knew after training camps he wanted to give him playing time.

“He’s been probably our most defensive back all camp, which means he gets his hands on balls,” Smart said. “He batted and knocked down balls [and] had picks.”

Smart loved how he handled being targeted early.

“We wanted to get him in the game early and fortunately it was a play where he was one-on-one and he made a really good play on the ball,” said Smart. “He’s an incredible athlete and has good speed. He’s got a lot to learn and I thought he played with great composure today.”

Coming out of high school, Starks was a five-star recruit from Jefferson High School in Jefferson, Georgia. Starks ran 10.88 in the 100-meter dash spring before his senior season. His ability to turn his hips and pursue speedy wide receivers caught the eyes of defensive back Christopher Smith. Smith gave Starks high praise since fall camp and knew he was capable of making a big play like that.

“I’ve seen him do it a bunch of times,” said Smith. “[It’s] one of the greatest interceptions I [have] ever seen. I think it’s big for him and you’re going to continue to see great things from him.

Safety Dan Jackson believes Starks work ethic is going to help him and the team get better.

“He’s an incredible athlete and player and you’re going to continue to see plays from him,” Jackson said. “That’s a guy that comes in every day and is locked in and wants to help the team win. It showed today.”