To get ready for the start of Georgia’s spring football practice Tuesday, DawgNation will do a position breakdown each day. Today we will analyze the secondary. On Tuesday we will look at the special teams.
2011 starters: CB: Brandon Boykin, 2011 senior (55 tackles, 3 interceptions, 11 tackles for loss); Sanders Commings, Sr. (55 tackles, 1 interception, 4 TFL); S: Bacarri Rambo, Sr. (55 tackles, 8 interceptions, 1 TFL); Shawn Williams, Sr. (72 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 TFL)
Key losses: Boykin, Jordan Love (transfer), Nick Marshall (dismissed), Chris Sanders (dismissed)
Reserves: CB: Branden Smith, Sr. (24 tackles, 2 interceptions); Malcolm Mitchell, So. (played offense); Damian Swann, So. (5 tackles, 1 TFL); Blake Sailors, Jr. (9 tackles); Devin Bowman, RFr. (Redshirted); S: Corey Moore, So. (1 tackle); Quintavius Harrow, So. (10 tackles); Marc Deas, So. (3 tackles); Connor Norman, So. (13 tackles)
New faces: Mitchell’s move from receiver will be the story of the spring, as a two-game suspension to Commings and a probable suspension to Smith depleted Georgia’s cornerback depth for the early portion of the season. He and Bowman will join the veterans in the cornerback hunt in spring practice and signee Sheldon Dawson (Memphis/Ridgeway) will come aboard in the summer.
Spring goal: Defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos’ most significant job this spring will be to break Mitchell and Bowman into the rotation. Commings started all 14 games last year, but will miss the first two games -- against Buffalo and at Missouri -- to start this season because of his role in a domestic incident in downtown Athens in February. Smith figures to also face at least a one-game suspension after being arrested on marijuana charges in South Alabama last week. The Bulldogs need Mitchell, Swann and Bowman to be ready to roll come September -- and now is the time for them to begin preparing.
Worth watching: Aside from Mitchell and the other young cornerbacks adjusting to larger roles in the secondary, the development of Georgia’s reserve safeties also bears watching. Rambo and Williams are established veterans -- in fact, they might be the best safety duo in the SEC -- but Commings would have been the first player to move to safety if either of them suffered an injury. The Bulldogs need young players like Moore and Harrow to show they can handle the reserve roles behind the senior starters.
Area of concern: The Bulldogs probably can’t absorb many more depth hits after the Smith and Commings incidents and still feel OK about the state of the secondary. Swann, Mitchell and Bowman should be fine at cornerback as temporary fill-ins without the two seniors. But none of those players have proven themselves in high-pressure situations, nor have any of the reserve safeties.
Position grade: B. The grade here would be much higher if not for the worrisome depth. Rambo was an All-American last year and Williams deserved more national attention than he received. Commings and Smith are also capable of playing in the NFL despite their missteps and Swann and Mitchell both have star potential -- truthfully, Mitchell is already a star on offense. As long as nothing else happens to damage the depth, Georgia’s secondary will again be a strength.