Shaq Wiggins leaves Georgia football team

semerson@macon.comMay 9, 2014 

10.19.13 UGA at VU 14

Georgia freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins runs back an interception against Vanderbilt, in what proved to be the Bulldogs' only touchdown via defense or special teams in the 2013 regular season.

TED MAYER

ATHENS - The Georgia secondary is losing one of its few bright spots from last season.

Shaq Wiggins, who started eight games as a freshman and led the team with two interceptions, is transferring, UGA announced on Friday evening.

In a statement released by the team, head coach Mark Richt said: "Shaq and I have been talking over the last few days and a fresh start is what he believes is in his best interest. We respect his decision and certainly wish him nothing but the best."

Wiggins could not be immediately reached for comment, but released a statementto 247Sports.com that said he was looking for a program that would "embrace my personality."

Wiggins also had the team's lone defensive score last year, a pick-six at Vanderbilt, and his insertion into the lineup seemed to inject some life into a struggling secondary. He finished the season with 19 tackles in 12 games.

But when Georgia's defensive coaching staff was overhauled, new defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt opened up every starting spot in the secondary. Wiggins did not end up spending much time with the first team during spring practice.

Wiggins also ran into some minor off-field trouble, an arrest in early January for driving on a suspended license. But Richt said later that Wiggins would not be suspended for that.

This is the second defensive starter to leave the team this offseason. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was dismissed in February, and ended up at Louisville, where Todd Grantham is the new defensive coordinator. So now Georgia will have eight starters returning, as the only senior starter was defensive lineman Garrison Smith.

Wiggins was a four-star recruit in 2013 out of Sandy Creek High School. He chose Georgia over Auburn and South Carolina, among others. And with Grantham and Harvey-Clemons at Louisville, the Cardinals have to be considered a possible destination as well.

As for Georgia, it has plenty of options at cornerback. Damian Swann, who will be a senior, was the player who spent the most time with the first team this spring. J.J. Green, who spent his freshman year at tailback, moved to cornerback and emerged as a potential starter at the star position.

Brendan Langley started four games as a freshman last year. Reggie Wilkerson, who sat out his freshman year after tearing his ACL, holds promise. Sheldon Dawson, who will be a junior, was a first-teamer after last year's spring but then was beaten out first by Langley and then Wiggins.

Pruitt, however, didn't seem happy with many of his options as spring practice ended.

"We had 50 guys out there on defense who all tried to do the same stuff. I didn't see anybody that particularly stood out that much that deserved an award," Pruitt said.

That may open the door for an incoming recruit, such as Malkom Parrish of Brooks County High School, Shattle Fenteng of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College or Shaquille Jones of Merritt Island, Fla.

The full statement by Wiggins:

"First of all, (the) University of Georgia is a great school and I would like to thank Coach Richt and his staff for the opportunity to play at Georgia. When you are new to an organization, it’s extremely important to have the right fit. I love football and want to reach my highest potential. Therefore, after careful thought and much consideration, I believe that it is in the best interest of all parties that we part ways.

"I am looking for a team who will embrace my personality, someone who is a jovial, carefree and a bit of a jokester but who knows when to put jokes aside, get focused and become a true competitor, especially when on the field.

"I want to learn, and I want someone who can channel my energy and enthusiasm to take my game to the next level."

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