Around the Hedges in 80 Days: S. Williams

Three days remain until Georgia kicks off its season opener against Buffalo on Saturday. In the days counting down to the opener, DawgNation will profile, with our “Around the Hedges in 80 Days” series, a Bulldogs player we expect to make an impact. We will review each player’s career thus far and project his long-term potential as we progress through our alphabetical list, from center David Andrews to receiver Rantavious Wooten.

3. Shawn Williams

Senior, Safety

6-foot-1, 217 pounds

Fall forecast: Safety Bacarri Rambo drew most of the headlines -- and intercepted most of the passes -- for Georgia’s secondary last season, but fellow safety Williams was one of the Bulldogs’ steadiest players. He is Georgia’s top returning tackler and should be a steadying influence at the back end of the secondary for however long Rambo misses time while suspended. The team’s secondary concerns would be exponentially more concerning if not for Williams’ presence.

Career highlight: Williams is perhaps best remembered for a cheap shot against Vanderbilt that led to his first-half suspension in the ensuing game against Florida -- an incident that also contributed to a memorable postgame war of words between Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vandy head coach James Franklin. But Williams produced no shortage of big-time plays last season, either, such as key interceptions against Michigan State and Georgia Tech.

Experience thus far: Williams has played in all 40 games of his college career, but became a full-time starter only last season. He started 13 games and led the team with 72 tackles along with five tackles for a loss, six pass breakups and four interceptions.

Possible career impact: If he continues last season’s progress, Williams will rank among the SEC’s top defensive backs by the end of the fall. Some might say he already does. ESPN’s Scouts Inc. rated Williams as the No. 23 overall prospect for the 2013 NFL draft -- the fourth-best rating for any defensive back and best among all SEC DBs. He doesn’t have much of a national profile yet, but another strong season by Williams and Georgia’s defense could change that.