We'll revisit these looks over the spring and summer when position battles warm up and that date with the Clemson Tigers gets a little closer, but let's continue the series by focusing in on the biggest problem unit of last year You've seen the entire offensive side of the ball, and the defensive front 7. Now comes the defensive backfield. I'm using the current roster from georgiadogs.com, and including the 2014 signing class commitments as of the time of writing (since that can change).
CB: Damian Swann (Sr) Shaq Wiggins (So) Sheldon Dawson (Jr) Reggie Wilkerson (rsFr) Brendan Langley (So) Devin Bowman (Jr) Shattle Fenteng (Jr) Malkom Parrish (Fr) Tristan Askew* (Sr) Aaron Davis* (So)
S: Corey Moore (Sr) Josh Harvey Clemons (Jr) Tray Matthews (So) Quincy Mauger (So) Kendall Gant (Fr) Kennar Johnson (Jr) Tramel Terry? (rsFr) Devin Gillespie* (So) Lucas Redd* (Sr) JJ Green? (So)
* = walked on
Yeah, I'm fooling with the numbers here a little bit. Depending on how well Pruitt can coach 'em up, corner doesn't look as bad as a lot of fans will claim this off season. There is talent, and cover ability, we just gotta do a better job communicating. Safety is interesting, and in desperate need of quality bodies though, so I left Tramel Terry there, and think JJ Green may wind up playing here since he could see the field and make a big difference there in my opinion.
Swann returns for his senior season, and we hope he can regain his sophomore form. He's shown good cover skills, and a great ability inside as a nickel corner. Pruitt is a good bet to get Swann straightened out. Wiggins has shown excellent cover skills, and a strong chance to continue the long line of quality 5'8-5'9 Georgia corners (Tim Wansley, Tim Jennings, among others). Dawson hasn't gotten a lot of playing time, but when he has he's shown good cover skills and athleticism as well. Add a kid that was supposedly making huge waves during spring practice before blowing out his knee in Wilkerson, and the size of Langley, and that's 5 pretty decent options.
Langley may slide to S, but he had the size and speed to be a very good CB if he can get some confidence. Fenteng recently solidified his commitment on an official visit, and seems to be in Pruitt's plans as a JUCO. He's got S size, but the Griffin native has played mostly CB and done it very well. Devin Bowman seems mostly a special teams guy, but his size makes safety a possibility also. The long current freshman, Parrish, is supposedly a big time athlete but will take time to learn technique after playing QB in high school. We may add another freshman with the way Pruitt seems to be looking around. Askew may play, having been a contributor at Eastern Washington before transferring to Athens. He seems an interesting question mark going into the season.
We've got essentially 4 returning starters at safety, but we've got no clue what to expect from any of them. Corey Moore made several huge mistakes, but also started to make a lot of big plays as the year wore on, at strong safety. He'll be expected to provide more consistency as a senior. Harvey-Clemons has all sorts of potential, and makes plays both in the box and in coverage. But if he can't lay off the blunts, he won't make it to the fall. As creative as Pruitt showed blitzing his DBs, the thought of sending and dropping the 6'5 JHC is really promising though so fingers are crossed the Lowndes High School product can stay clean.
Matthews is a huge question mark as well. You saw the skill set, but he seemed lost all season, and was admittedly bothered by the increased punishments for hard hitters defensively. Quincy Mauger got a lot of valuable experience as a freshman and should get much better in year 2, with the ability to play FS and SS.
Behind those 4 though are big question marks. Kendall Gant has a strong reputation coming out of Lakeland, but you never know with a freshman DB except they'll give up at least a couple big plays on busted coverages. Gillespie and Redd are likely special teams help at most. Other than that you'll have position switch guys. Maybe Langley or Fenteng or Bowman slide back from CB. Kennar Johnson redshirted thanks to injury after arriving as a JUCO, but appears to be well passed by at CB. Maybe he can find a home at S and provide much needed depth. Tramel Terry got moved to S for bowl practices after spending most of the year at WR. He could easily shift back, but the numbers at WR make a permanent shift to S seem like a good possibility. Plus as a former WR he's got ball skills that we never came close to seeing from Matthews, Mauger, Moore, or JHC. That's also why I put JJ Green here as a possibility. The numbers at RB are large, and S needs help. He's got a DBs game, a good DB pedigree from Camden County where he played a good bit of ball hawk S, and he's got great ball skills. With Pruitt emphasizing turnovers, having a nose for the football is a critical need at S.
As you can suspect, Pruitt had his eye on several high caliber DBs at Florida St, and has started working many of those guys to come to Athens. We have a decent group, depending on how things play out and who plays where. But more options wouldn't be a bad idea either.