INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia’s football program is holding together despite close scrutiny and national criticism, according to cornerback Kelee Ringo.
Ringo, who performed at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, was bombarded with questions about the recent spate of alcohol-related and street racing-related arrests.
“We continue to stay together and connected,” Ringo said during his media presentation on Thursday. “I don’t think anything at the University of Georgia will separate us.
“I have a feeling how strong it will continue to be is something that will appeal to the rest of the nation.”
The two-time defending Bulldogs champion has continued to hold his own on the field and in the NFL draft evaluation process.
Georgia captain Nolan Smith ran a 4.39-second time in the 40-yard dash on Thursday, likely cementing himself as a first-round NFL pick, and Ringo is expected to run in the low 4.3 range on Friday.
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Off the field, however, a string of arrests over the past six months of high-profile Georgia players Stetson Bennett, Javon Bullard, Jamon Dumas-Johnson and prospective top-five pick Jalen Carter has drawn national attention.
In fact, five of the Bulldogs’ 2022 season captains were arrested for various offenses last year.
An ongoing investigation into a tragic car accident that killed Georgia recruiter Chandler LeCroy and offensive lineman Devin Willock has put the program under scrutiny.
But Ringo, who returned an interception 79 yards for a TD just over a year ago at Lucas Oil Stadium to earn a 33-18 win over Alabama, said the incidents were not a reflection of team culture.
“I would say it has nothing to do with the program and I would say different people have their different reasons for what they do,” Ringo said. “To be a grown man, one must be specifically accountable for one’s actions.”
To Ringo’s credit, he didn’t try to whitewash any of the transgressions that led to the arrests.
“In terms of character, I have nothing to say about any of my teammates,” Ringo said. “Whoever is given a lot, can expect a lot, and you have to be aware of that.”
But when it came to defending the program and explaining the culture Smart has built, Ringo was adamant.
“It starts with coaches and players holding each other accountable,” Ringo said. “If the coaches keep this standard, it often goes a long way.
“But it’s very different when the team is like, ‘Hey bro, you gotta lock yourself in, you gotta be able to do this or that,’ because you build that relationship with each other and you’re able to get down on each other , if necessary, and it will be respected.”
Smart will soon be emphasizing – if he hasn’t already – that this kind of accountability applies off the field as well.
On the field, Ringo shared how much is at stake each day.
“The standard at the University of Georgia is like no other,” Ringo said. “The preparation Coach Smart gives us and the standard he holds us to every day, we know there’s going to be tough coaching and we know he intends to make us better in everything he does make.
“Every single day feels like a trial at the University of Georgia. I feel like keeping that standard… definitely helped us grow as a team.”