Editor's note: Over the next couple of weeks, we'll clean out our notebook from Georgia's spring practice to tell the stories we didn't get to before the Bulldogs' G-Day game. Previously we featured fullback Quayvon Hicks, tight end Jay Rome and defensive end Ray Drew. Today we recap a conversation with safety Connor Norman from a few days before the G-Day game.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Connor Norman doesn’t necessarily want to become a coach, but he assumed that role almost by default this spring.
As the only Georgia safety who has actually started a game on defense, he naturally felt somewhat like a teacher as he helped younger teammates such as early enrollees Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger experience their first taste of college football.
“There’s a lot of young guys and I feel like I have a pretty decent understanding of the defense, so I feel like if that’s part of what I do, then I’m out there helping,” said Norman, a fifth-year senior. “I guess I do see myself as a teacher.”
In fact, Norman has a working knowledge of every position in the secondary, having started his UGA career at cornerback before shifting to safety. But safety -- and free safety in particular -- is where he is most knowledgeable, making him a good candidate to help free safeties Matthews and Mauger learn their new responsibilities.
He came away impressed with what he saw from both freshmen.
“I feel like they’ve impressed me more in the way that they’re learning and preparing just because it’s a whole lot different than high school,” Norman said. “High school is three coverages and you go out there and play.
“But these guys, the way they’re preparing in the meeting room and asking questions and really wanting to learn and know is really impressive. They both have unbelievable athletic ability. They both have potential to be great at Georgia, I think.”
This spring brought about some changes for Norman, as well. He started twice at free safety to open last season while All-American Bacarri Rambo sat out on suspension. He added strong safety to his repertoire this spring, splitting time with Corey Moore behind Josh Harvey-Clemons.
He has understood the duties of both safety positions for some time, and added that it’s actually difficult not to do so regardless of which safety position you play.
“Everything works off itself back there, so if you know what one guy’s doing, you know what the other is doing,” Norman said. “That’s what I kind of tried to do is learn the concepts of the defense and know the plays so I’d know where other guys need to be, and if I have to go in a different spot, I’m able to do that.”
It remains to be seen how big a role Norman will play this fall. Matthews and Mauger were among five 2013 signees capable of playing safety, including junior college transfers Shaq Fluker and Kennar Johnson. So it’s possible that his role as a special teams ace and occasional contributor on scrimmage downs will remain intact in 2013.
Regardless of the assignment, Norman’s true value is that he has the knowhow to play it -- and is willing to pass along that knowledge to his young teammates.
“I guess after you’ve been doing it for three years, you have a pretty good understanding of what every defensive back position is doing,” Norman said, “so you’re able to line up kind of wherever.”