ATHENS, Ga. — For three years, Prince Miller looked over his shoulder and saw Bryan Evans. The two battled almost daily for position on the depth chart at cornerback, and for most of their careers, the two were best friends off the field.
This spring, Miller still sees Evans over his shoulder, but they’re no longer competing. Instead of hoping to take Miller’s job at corner, Evans now has his back as Georgia’s starting safety.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Miller said. “We’re real close, so for us both to go from fighting over a position to being out there at the same time, I think it’s a great thing.”
For three years, Evans and Miller have been as close as any two players on Georgia’s roster, and the competition on the field has never strained their relationship.
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Now that they’re both on the field together for the first time as starters, that relationship they forged as competitors is paying dividends. Safeties and corners need to work together, freshman Brandon Boykin said, and Miller and Evans seem to read each other’s minds.
“Just the communication they have, they know things they don’t have to tell each other,” Boykin said. “Prince automatically knows the play just because they’ve had that relationship for so long.”
During their time together at Georgia, Evans and Miller have turned trash talk into an art form. They still have a few choice comments directed at each other, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said, but now that both will be seniors, they’re trying to use their particular brand of humor to help form the foundation of the rest of the secondary, too.
“One thing about those two guys is you know that they’re practicing because they’re not going to be quiet,” Martinez said. “They’re not shy guys. They’re talking, they’re encouraging, they’re critiquing their own players, and that’s what we need from those two guys.”
It’s not all critiques and laughs for the senior defensive backs, however.
The competition between the two essentially ended midway through the 2008 season when Evans, who opened the year as the starter, struggled through consecutive dismal performances on the field. First he was benched, then he was moved from the position he had played for the past three years.
But Evans never complained. He approached the transition to safety with enthusiasm.
“If I have a bad play, he’ll come over and let me know what I did wrong,” Evans said. “That’s always good to have. That’s what it’s been with me moving to safety.”
With veterans Asher Allen and CJ Byrd gone, the burden of leading the younger defensive backs has fallen to Evans and Miller. It’s a role Miller said they have been training for since they arrived at Georgia.
“You have your ups and downs and you learn from your mistakes,” Miller said. “When you’ve been there, you can tell the players, you can lead them and let them know how it’s going to be.”
There’s no substitute for that type of experience, Martinez said, and it’s exactly what the secondary needs this season.
“I think what I’m looking for is leadership from them being older guys, being seniors who have played a lot of football,” Martinez said. “They’ve had some good times, they’ve had some bad times, but they have a tremendous amount of experience.”