Secondary: Star power, depth, versatility give the Bulldogs reason to bark
Eighth in a series breaking down Georgia’s 2011 football team by position groups. . . .
The return of senior cornerback Brandon Boykin is a big reason for optimism that Georgia's improved play in the secondary will continue this season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)
THE DEFENSIVE BACKS
- Projected starters: CB Brandon Boykin (Sr., 5-10, 183), FS Bacarri Rambo (Jr., 6-0, 218), SS Shawn Williams (Jr., 6-1, 220), CB Sanders Commings (Jr., 6-2, 217)
- Returning starters: All of them. Rambo started all 13 games (nine at strong safety and four at free safety) while Boykin has started 24 of the last 26 and has played in every game since he’s been at Georgia. Commings started nine games at cornerback while Williams started three games at free safety.
- Others to watch: You might as well add Branden Smith as another returning starter as the junior from Atlanta got nine starts last season as either a corner or nickelback in a five-defensive back formation. Senior Jakar Hamilton started five games at free safety and will be in the playing rotation. Redshirt freshman strong safety Marc Deas is one to keep an eye on.
- Key losses: Vance Cuff, who started five games at cornerback and played in 44 in his career, graduated. One-time starting safety Nick Williams, who would have been a senior, transferred to North Alabama.
- Key newcomers: Georgia loaded up on elite defensive backs in recruiting. The Bulldogs landed a pair of AJC Super 11 selections in Damian Swann of Grady and Nick Marshall of Wilcox County. Marshall starred as a quarterback but agreed to sign with UGA as a defensive back with the promise of getting some looks on offense. Devin Bowman, Quintavious Harrow and Corey Moore also came in as defensive backs. Valdosta’s Malcolm Mitchell, who was nationally rated as a cornerback prospect, is listed on Georgia’s roster as “athlete” but is expected to begin his career as a wide receiver.
- Key fact: Boykin bypassed the chance to enter the NFL draft in order to return for his final season and is being rewarded by seeing his named on virtually efvery preseason watch list, including the Thorpe, Bednarik and Nagurski awards. This honor roll student from Fayette County is also the school record holder for career kickoff return yards (1,871) and is the only player in SEC history to have three 100-yard plays of any kind. . . . Rambo also has found his way on some preseason lists.
- Key question: Can the Bulldogs maintain the trajectory of improvement in pass coverage it established this past season? A year after allowing an SEC worst 25 touchdown passes and intercepting only 10, Georgia gave up just 15 scores and picked off 16 passes (13 by defensive backs).
- Outlook: Very good. In their second year under secondary coach Scott Lakatos, with the return of an experienced and deep unit, the addition of young talent and the anticipation of an improved pass-rushing presence from the front seven, there’s reason to expect this group to only get better.
- Your turn: What are your thoughts on Georgia’s secondary?
PREVIOUS POSITION BREAKDOWNS:
July 11 — Linebackers
July 8 — Defensive line
July 7 — Quarterbacks
July 6 — Running backs
July 5 — Tight ends
July 2 — Wide receivers
July 1 — Offensive line