UGA hopes DB Dawson can fill big shoes

As the months ticked by before signing day 2012, Georgia saw a number of its cornerback targets commit to other schools. It seemed as though secondary coach Scott Lakatos might not get a defensive back in this class after signing six of them last year.

But then the Bulldogs found a new target and the coaches were determined to land this one. Sheldon Dawson (Memphis, Tenn./ Ridgeway) was one of the top players in Tennessee, but he was committed to Memphis. The Georgia staff believed they could flip the talented cornerback. This past Monday, Dawson committed to the Bulldogs.

“It feels good,” Dawson said. “Athens is going to be my new home. I like how the players interact with each other and how close they are. I just like the coaches and the way it is down there. It is a great environment. I know Marlon Brown and I met a couple people on the visits.”

Georgia regularly has been successful in luring recruits from Memphis area. With three players from there already on the team, the coaches worked hard to add a fourth.

“They let me know that I could play both ways and they showed me how they used Brandon Boykin,” Dawson said. “When I was there on my official visit, they were practicing and actually using him on offense. I watched and saw how he scored multiple ways in the bowl game. They told me they were going to use me a lot and they wanted me to play just like him.”

It was a successful sales pitch, due mainly to Dawson’s respect for Boykin.

“Brandon Boykin is a great leader,” Dawson said. “I have watched him a lot. He just won the Paul Hornung Award.”

Of course the Bulldogs weren’t the only ones who were determined to land the speedy defensive back.

“Ole Miss. They went very hard. They were telling me they really need me and wanted me to come play,” Dawson said. “I told the Memphis coaches I was decommitting a couple weeks ago. They were disappointed. But it is a great honor to play in the SEC. It is the best of the best.”

Dawson had originally committed as a running back. When he started thinking more about playing his college football on the defense, his recruitment took off. Offers poured in -- from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and other prominent colleges. Dawson is excited about the new direction of his football career.

“I was a running back but I played defense, too. It doesn’t matter because I am a cornerback now,” Dawson said. “When I committed to Memphis it was as a running back. I love scoring touchdowns, but now I get to hit people as well as intercept the ball and take it in for the score. I am going to do kick returns and punt returns, too.”

Special teams play was a staple of Boykin’s game as well, and now the Bulldogs need a new return specialist. They may have found one.

“I led the state in touchdown returns and return yards,” Dawson said. “I want to play and give the fans something to watch.”

As the only cornerback in the 2012 class, Dawson likely will be needed early, especially considering how the transfers of Derek Owns and Jordan Love have left the Bulldogs thin in the secondary.

“I have always played defensive back so now I am going to work at it every day and learn more things about it,” Dawson said. “I am 5-foot-11-inches and I weigh 180 pounds. I am knocking on 6 feet though. I will play against any receiver. I believe I am just as fast as or quicker than them. I’ll be ready.”