June 30, 2010

Position Breakdown: Cornerbacks

Yes, Vance Cuff finds his name atop the depth chart at one of Georgia's two cornerback positions heading into preseason drills.

However, as the Bulldogs wrapped up spring practice back in early April, the Colquitt County native wasn't taking his status for granted.

"For me it's knowing that I have a chance to be a starting corner in the SEC," Cuff said recently. "Knowing that I could be out there on the first drive that the defense is on the field … it's just going to push me to work that much harder. Everything I did on second and third team, it's out the window. It's a new day. I know I need to step it up because I'm going to have to be even better than last year."

That's certainly what the Bulldogs are counting on.

As UGASports continues its summertime position breakdown, we examine the cornerback position, where other than returning starter Brandon Boykin, Cuff is one of a handful of young players who will need to step up their respective play.

For much of his Bulldog career, Cuff has been mainly an afterthought in Georgia's defensive backfield, earning just occasionally playing in a backup role.

But with a new defensive coaching staff, Cuff earned a fresh opportunity to shine.

"I know it's taken me a long time to step up to the plate, but with these new coaches has come a new opportunity," Cuff said. "I felt like I was starting from ground zero, and if I wanted to make a good name with these coaches, I needed to go out do whatever I could to impress them. I wanted to show them that I could really play ball."

Cuff appears to have done just that.

Back in late March, Mark Richt lauded Cuff for an interception he made in the end zone and Saturday Cuff was in the starting lineup for the first-team defense during April's G-Day Game.

"I'm just going to go out and do my best," Cuff said. "When or if I mess up, I'm going to do it full speed. That's the only way I'm going to play."

Cuff understands a starting job is not assured.

Sophomore Branden Smith is expected to be much improved and will challenge for a starting job, while redshirt sophomore Sanders Commings, redshirt freshman Jordan Love, senior Chad Gloer and freshman Derek Owens also getting into the mix.

Short Corner
2 Brandon Boykin 5-10 185 Junior
1 Branden Smith 5-11-175 Sophomore
47 Chad Gloer 5-10 193 Senior

Wide Corner
25 Vance Cuff 5-11 177 Senior
19 Sanders Commings 6-2 214 Redshirt Sophomore
10 Jordan Love 6-0 185 Redshirt Freshman
20 Derek Owens 5-10 175 Freshman

Will Brandon Boykin reach his stated goal of 10 interceptions?

It's doubtful, but it would not be a surprise to see the former Fayette County star at least get to at least five. With new defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos promising more man coverage, there will be more opportunities for Boykin and all of Georgia's cornerbacks to come up with big plays. The question is, if Boykin does start having success picking off opposing passes, how long will it be before quarterbacks start looking the other way?

Will Branden Smith see as much time on offense as he did last year?

This kind of depends if Cuff can carry over what he did in the spring into the regular season, but right now, it looks like Smith will see more time on the defensive side. Sure, there will be a designed play or two for the speedy Smith on offense, but coaches feel he can become an elite cornerback and will give him every chance to do just that.

How much will freshmen Derek Owens play?

Boykin compares Owens to Smith last year. If that's the case, look for the Jacksonville native to get his chance. Owens intercepted 24 passes during his high school career and has a penchant for making big plays.

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