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August 12, 2014

Gleaning hope where you can: Georgia's defensive backfield

When you step back and take the whole forest picture of Georgia's defense, the picture is ok. Not awesome by any means, but certainly not dire...yet. We have the top to tacklers in the conference returning. We have serious depth on the defensive line, and the most athletic player on the line, Ray Drew, isn't even listed as first team. By all accounts, our coaching staff is an upgrade over last year.

Even our defensive backfield looks deeper than I was giving it credit for when you look at this:
It was a bold statement this past week from Jeremy Pruitt that he had one DB playing "winning football," and it was Damian Swann. A quiet, thoughtful kind of guy, Swann has never been a fiery, outspoken leader. But he's clearly the lead dog in this pack. The Star position has been manned nicely to this point by the combo of J.J. Green and freshman Malkom Parrish, who has impressed and made some plays already. Sheldon Dawson has gotten some looks at Star as well while moving recently to safety in position drills.
The spot opposite Swann seems to still be up in the air. JUCO signee Shattle Fenteng was impressive the first couple of days there before a minor arm/shoulder injury took him out of practice the rest of the week. Assuming Fenteng is back, the next week looks big for him. Others like Shaquille Jones and Devin Bowman have been applauded at times in this role, and you've also got highly impressive walk-on Aaron Davis now at safety who could easily return to cornerback if needed.
It has been difficult to get a read on this competition so far. There appear to be at least four or five realistic contenders in Davis, Corey Moore, Quincy Mauger, freshman Dominick Sanders and walk-on Lucas Redd (he was starting to end spring, and you shouldn't doubt that Pruitt would do it).
Richt has basically said that Davis will have a role somewhere in the secondary. So he should probably be viewed as a front-runner here, while Sanders is getting plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. Others like Tramel Terry and Reggie Wilkerson are at safety now and battling hard, though it may be a little too soon to expect too much.
When you look at that, you see two CBs that have meaningful playing time, plus one that beat out the others as a walk on (granting that might be a bug as much as a feature), plus one that has great potential after playing in a similar defense in junior college. The safeties are deep but green and there is no way around that.

Therein lies the problem. We play at least four teams, including two in our first two games, that will look to exploit our young defensive backfield, and have the players and coaching to do so.

I swear I'm not writing a puff piece to alay my fears. I'm just recognizing that there is potential here. I'm hopeful coaching is the missing piece to moving our pass defense from wretched to competent.


saldiven said...

A lot of the inexperience in the defensive backfield can be ameliorated if the front seven continue to develop from last year. If players like Bailey, Thornton, Wilson and Herrerra can contain the run (like they did last year), then opponents' offenses should be behind the chains fairly often. This will play into the hands of players like Drew, Jenkins and Floyd to pressure the quarterback.
You can get away with an inexperienced backfield if you can get consistent pressure on the quarterback and the opponent isn't always in short yardage situations.
We'll have to wait and see if UGA's front seven can be effective enough to prop up the inexperienced backfield in the 2014 season.

Mind_Blown said...

You're right. I'm not expecting a lights out defense but I DO expect a big turnaround in two key areas. 1) Get off the field on third down and 2) Force turnovers. If they can improve in these two areas then I expect big things from this team. For that to happen we need that front 7 or 6 to dominate, dismantle and disrupt.

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