ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia sophomore safety Malaki Starks has been named a 2023 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Finalist on Wednesday.
The Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club give the award annually to the nation's top defensive player.
Starks, a native of Jefferson, Ga., has 33 tackles and two interceptions during his second year starting for the Bulldogs. A consensus Midseason All-American, he is also a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s best defensive back. Starks has helped Georgia rank sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 15.6 points per game, and ninth nationally in total defense at 289.2 yards per game.
Starks is one of five Nagurski Trophy finalists, joining cornerback Cooper DeJean (Iowa), defensive tackle Jer’Zahn Newton (Illinois), safety Xavier Watts (Notre Dame) and linebacker Payton Wilson (N.C. State). The winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 4, in Charlotte during an awards banquet. This is the third consecutive year that a Bulldog has been a finalist.
Former Bulldog and Pro Football Hall of Famer Champ Bailey has been Georgia’s only winner of the Nagurski Trophy, bringing it home in 1998. Georgia’s other finalists have been lineman David Pollack (2002 & 2004), linebacker Justin Houston (2010), linebacker Roquan Smith (2017), safety J.R. Reed (2019), lineman Jordan Davis (2021) and safety Christopher Smith (2022).
On Saturday, the top-ranked Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0 SEC) travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to face No. 18 Tennessee (7-3, 3-3 SEC). CBS will televise the matchup at 3:30 p.m. ET. Also, SEC Nation will make the trip to Tennessee’s campus.