As we begin previewing the 2013 football season, we are counting down Georgia's 10 most important players. This is not a ranking of the team's best players, rather a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
Last year, No. 4 on this very list was Damian Swann. And guess what ... it is again.
4. Damian Swann
WHY HE’S VITAL: There’s only one returning starter in the secondary, just one player who has received significant playing time at the college level. And his name rhymes with Bamian Bwann. For two seasons Swann has been very solid as the No. 2 or nickel cornerback – and more often the No. 2, a spot he earned last year. Now he ascends to the top spot, where he will be charged with stopping the other team’s top receiver. So in addition to leading a young secondary, Swann also has to be very good in his own right. The most likely guy to start at the other corner spot is Sheldon Dawson, a sophomore. Freshman Reggie Wilkerson impressed during spring, and incoming freshmen Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins have a lot of potential. It’s a good group of young talent which should aid depth. But would Georgia feel good about any of them stepping into the top cornerback role at any point this season? No, not yet. It makes Swann pretty much irreplaceable.
QUOTABLE: “He really doesn’t have to prove to anybody that he’s a very good football player because he’s already proved that. Now it’s just a matter of can I lead and can I become the very best football player. I think that’s his mindset.” – Mark Richt
BEST CASE: Swann becomes the kind of lock-down cornerback that Georgia believes he can be. We’re not talking Champ Bailey, but more like Sanders Commings and Brandon Boykin, who were both pretty consistent. How Swann performs the first week against Sammy Watkins will be important. But so will future (expected) matchups against South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington, LSU’s Jarvis Landry, Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham and Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers. And perhaps Alabama’s Amari Cooper, should there be an SEC championship rematch.
WORST CASE: Swann proves to be only as effective as the teammates around him, and opposing offenses pick the Bulldogs apart.
FINAL WORD: Swann isn’t becoming the No. 1 cornerback by default. He proved his first two years to be very dependable, supplanting a senior (Branden Smith) as a starter last year. He doesn’t have Sanders Commings’ size (Swann, at 5-foot-11, is three inches shorter), but that’s a bit deceiving, as Swann has good pound-for-pound strength at 190 pounds. There’s every reason to believe Swann can be a good SEC cornerback, if not a very good one.