Defensive Position Battles Heat Up After Spring

Scott Cunningham

There’s no doubting that the defense was the team’s Achilles heel last year. In fact, it could be easily argued that the defense cost our beloved Bulldogs more than just a win at Auburn. When Todd Grantham announced that he was leaving for Louisville, the Dawg Nation celebrated like they had just won the Sugar Bowl. Then came the glorious announcement that Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt from National Champions Florida State would be taking over the defensive side of the ball for the Dawgs.

When that announcement came, all of us began thinking that there would be an immediate impact on the defense to the point where we might be able to make another run at a Championship. Then reality kicked it, and we realized that there was a ton of work that needed to be done to turn the Dawg’s D into a championship level defense. And it’s not due to a lack of talent, Georgia is always going to have talent on both sides of the ball, but rather the breaking of bad or even terrible habits that were allowed during the previous defensive administration.

On top of that, Pruitt has to figure out who is starters are going to be. While the linebacker positions seem to be solidified, the other position groups are going to have a brutal fall competition to decide who will be listed as a starters on August 30th when the Clemson Tiger face the Dawgs between the hedges.

The Secondary

To say last year’s secondary underperformed or disappointed would be a vast understatement. They were disastrous. Pruitt really has his work cut out for him, since he took over responsibility for the secondary as well as the whole defense. This position group has the most bad habits to break, by far.

It would be a surprise if Damian Swann (Sr), who has started 28 games for the silver britches, wasn’t given one of the two starting corner spots, which means that there would be a need for another solid starter and nickelback. It looks like Shaq Wiggins (So.) and Brendan Langley (Jr.) are the front runners for the two spots, but J.J. Green (So.) has switched to defense and may compete for one of the spots as well.

The team currently has twelve corners on its roster, and nine of them are upper classmen. This means that no one should be surprised if Pruitt makes several moves at the corner position, since it’s going to be the players that can pick up his playing style the quickest that will get the chance to play.

At strong safety, Senior Corey Moore seems to have strong hold onto the starting position. Tray Matthews (So.) looks to be a heavy favorite at Free Safety, but will more than likely be suspended for at least one game. Quincy Mauger (So.) and Lucas Reed (Sr.) may be able to prove themselves as solid candidates for the position as well, especially since one of them will most likely have a slot in starting lineup during the first game. Terry Tramel (RFr.) has been listed as a safety since the bowl practices, and is an incredible athlete who could make a push for free safety. The team also has Devin Gillespie (RSo.) on the roster as a strong safety.

Incoming freshmen to keep an eye on: Shattle Fenteng (CB), Shaquille Jones (DB), Malkohm Parrish (CB), and Dominick Sanders (DB).

Defensive Line

While Garrison Smith is the only loss, there are several question marks when it comes to the starting three for the Dawgs line. Defensive end Sterling Bailey (Jr.) appears to be the only surefire starter. James DeLoach (Jr.), who played Outside Linebacker last year, appears to be the favorite leaving spring practice for the other end. Senior and former 5-star recruit Ray Drew is the other name associated with the spot, although he has been spending a good bit of time with the third string for reasons unknown. Don't count out the beast in Lorenzo Carter that will be coming in this fall.

At the Nose there’s a three-way, maybe even a four-way battle. Chris Mayes (Sr.) may be the favorite, since he started the final seven games last year. John Atkins (RFr.) is large and extremely athletic, which gives him a great shot at overtaking Mayes. The smaller Mike Thornton (Sr.) will most likely be used in a reserve role like last year, but he’s got a shot. And look out for incoming freshman Lamont Gaillard, who could make an immediate impact as he was considered one of the best DT’s in the country by every scouting authority.

Incoming freshmen to keep an eye on: Carter (DE), Keyon Brown (DE), Kendall Baker (DT), and Gaillard (DT).

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