Well, this is timely. The Georgia secondary continues to lose players, with Brendan Langley’s switch to offense the latest hit – if that’s the right word for players leaving a group that was ninth in the SEC in pass defense. Langley’s departure came after Shaq Wiggins transferred and safety-star Josh Harvey-Clemons was booted. That made a total loss of 25 games started from last year (including two by graduated safety Connor Norman), as well as three of the team’s seven interceptions. And who knows, the attrition might not be over. New defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt has been open about his displeasure with what he saw this spring. But for the meantime, we proceed with our look at the secondary with the players currently on the roster:
Starter: Damian Swann, Sr.
Top backup(s): Reggie Wilkerson, R-Fr.
The skinny: Pruitt wouldn’t say that Swann is the most likely cornerback to play, but based on spring lineups it sure seemed that way. It’s well-documented that Swann didn’t perform up to expectations last year, but he is the most experienced and accomplished returning member of the secondary. It’s hard not to see him being a factor. As for Wilkerson, he came out of spring 2013 seeming to have a bright future, but then tore his ACL in summer workouts, and didn’t make a big move this spring. (Nobody on scholarship did in the secondary, to be fair.)
What happens next: If no one’s spot is set, then Swann needs to show up well this summer or Pruitt probably wouldn’t be afraid to sit the guy who should be his best player. But if you had to bet, Swann is the one member of the secondary you’d say has the best chance to start.
Starter: Aaron Davis, R-Fr. (walk-on)
Top backup(s): Sheldon Dawson, Jr.
Also in the room: Devin Bowman, Jr., Kennar Johnson, Jr., Tristan Askew, Jr. (walk-on).
On the way: Malkom Parrish, Fr.; Shattle Fenteng, Jr.; Shaquille Jones, Fr.
The skinny: Yes, a walk-on as the first-teamer. Whether or not Pruitt was trying to send a message, he sure did ride with Davis for awhile this spring. Langley and Dawson, who seemed as in need as anyone for a fresh start under a new coaching staff, didn’t make a move up the depth chart in the spring. So Langley moved along to offense. Bowman, who’s been around awhile, and Johnson, who redshirted last year, were also just in the mix.
What happens next: It should be a free-for-all when the preseason begins. Davis isn’t your typical walk-on – he was being recruited by some BCS schools prior to a high school injury – but he’s still a walk-on, and a second-year one at that. Wilkerson will also be in the mix, along with the freshmen. It certainly appears Pruitt will give the newcomers a chance, based on the way he discounted the performance of the holdovers during spring practice.
Starter: J.J. Green, Soph.
Top backup(s): Swann
The skinny: Pruitt made clear that he would use this as a true nickel-back spot, and use a defensive back. And Green, despite moving over from tailback just before the spring, had a good spring.
What happens next: Green will enter the preseason as the clear frontrunner, but Pruitt by no means seems wedded to him at the star. Also keep in mind that this spot won’t necessarily be used all the time. It looks like Georgia will use a diverse set of packages, meaning the 4-2-5 (which uses the star) won’t be on the field all the time.
Starter: Corey Moore, Sr.
Top backup(s): Tramey Terry, R-Fr. and Lucas Redd, Sr. (walk-on).
The skinny: Moore, the veteran of the group, will get the nod if Pruitt leans on his experience. Moore finished last season strong and was set to enter his senior year with a great chance to start. But everything opened up with the coaching change. The good news for Moore is that no other safety really did anything special during the spring.
What happens next: It depends on whether anybody else sprouts up to push Moore. But the dismissal of Josh Harvey-Clemons makes it harder to imagine who would.
Starter: Quincy Mauger, Soph.
Top backup(s): Tray Matthews, Soph.
On the way: Dominick Sanders, Fr.
The skinny: Mauger moved ahead of Matthews as last year went along, and continued to have the edge through spring practice. Although perhaps the best way to put it is Matthews didn’t make a move.
What happens next: Sanders is the only safety recruit, but don’t rule out one of the cornerback signees being moved back. And don’t rule out a cornerback being moved to safety, or a safety to cornerback, or a receiver moving to defensive back, or Pruitt holding open tryouts on the Myers quad during the fraternity rush period.