February 14, 2013

What's next in the secondary?

When it comes to opportunities for early playing time, Georgia's secondary will provide plenty of chances to shine.

"That's the reason I wanted to enroll early, to earn a starting spot," said freshman safety Tray Matthews. "If I wasn't interested in doing that, I'd have just stayed in high school and played basketball."

It's no wonder Matthews feels this way.

Due to the graduation of Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, both of Georgia's starting safety spots will be there for the taking.

But that's not all.

When the Bulldogs kick off spring practice on March 2, junior cornerback Damian Swann will be the lone starter back for Georgia, which also graduated cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith.

So how will the secondary shape up when the Bulldogs open their season at Clemson?

Below, UGASports will take a look at the returnees, plus examine the early enrollees and the other incoming freshmen who will have a chance to see the field.

Returning Letterman

● CB Damian Swann - The one secondary starter returning, Swann enjoyed an outstanding sophomore campaign after making 53 tackles and intercepting four passes. The Atlanta native has All-SEC potential and will be the unquestioned leader of the secondary this fall.

FS Connor Norman - Norman played in all 14 games for Georgia last fall making two starts, and will be looked on to provide leadership and experience at a spot where there is virtually none.

● CB Sheldon Dawson - Dawson had a fine freshman season for the Bulldogs, making 11 tackles after playing in 13 of Georgia's 14 games, mostly on special teams. The Memphis sophomore is highly thought of by Bulldog coaches and will be looking to sew up a starting role.

CB Blake Sailors - One of Georgia's key special team performers, Sailors made eight tackles in Georgia's 14 games.

● SS Marc Deas - Deas was primarily a special teams performer for the Bulldogs, making just one tackle all year.

● SS Corey Moore - Moore is expected to make a push for the starting job at strong safety, although head coach Mark Richt warned back in December that one of the returning secondary performers should take anything for granted. The rising junior made 14 tackles in limited action last year and did make one start, albeit on the offensive side.

● CB Devin Bowman - Bowman played in 13 games last year and made one start, but will need to work on his coverage skills which proved to be a liability at times last fall.

Early Enrollees

● FS Tray Matthews - Matthews said he's working primarily at free safety, where his natural ball-hawking schools could put him in position for a starting role with a strong spring. A four-star prospect by Rivals.com, Matthews was in on 51 tackles his senior year.

● FS/SS Quincy Mauger - At 6-foot and 197 pounds, Mauger said coaches will look at him at both safety spots after impressing back during last year's Mark Richt camp. Mauger is an underrated prospect that, at worst, will be a big time special teams contributor early on and could open some eyes in Athens with his football intelligence and work ethic.

● CB Reggie Wilkerson - Wilkerson says coaches will give him a look at boundary corner, where the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder compares favorably to Swann at the same age. As a senior, the four-star prospect had 26 tackles, deflected three passes and picked off another.

Incoming Freshmen

● CB Shaquille Wiggins - Like Wilkerson, Wiggins is expected to compete at boundary corner for the Bulldogs. The four-star competitor is an outstanding cover corner and despite his lack of size (5-10, 165) may have the best cover skills of any of Georgia's incoming corners.

● CB Brendan Langley - At 6-1 and 181 pounds, Langley also has a great chance for early playing time. A big-time playmaker, Langley intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble while also recording rushing, receiving and return yards on offense. Langley also has the skills to give Georgia a boost in the return game as well.

● S Kennar Johnson (6-2, 185) - Johnson was a guy that not many people knew about until the week before he visited Georgia officially for the Georgia Tech game. The three star JUCO committed that weekend, and will now be counted on to compete for early playing time at a position where Georgia loses both starters from 2012. Johnson primarily played cornerback for GCCC in 2012, so he could also slide over and help at that position if needed.

● S Paris Bostick - Another big-body safety at 6-1 and 217 pounds. Bostick had a big senior season at Tampa-Plant and averaged over nine tackles per game from his safety position. He is set to enroll at UGA this summer, and will likely have a chance to compete for playing time at strong safety.

● S Shaquille Fluker - Arguably the hardest-hitter of Georgia's incoming safeties, Fluker will have a chance for early playing time after intercepting seven passes over his two seasons at East Mississippi Community College.

- For the purposes of our position previews, junior Malcolm Mitchell, will be included in our story on the wide receivers, although the Valdosta native could certain step back into his defensive role if depth became an issue. Early enrollee J.J. Green and Tramel Terry will also be included on the offensive side.

Jake Rowe contributed to this report.