We’re are now only nine days away from your Georgia Bulldogs kicking it off between the hedges against the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Every year new players emerge to take on a prominent role, and we’re taking a stab at guessing who those players will be in 2017 in this series: ‘Dawgs Poised to Pounce. #7 is sophomore defensive back Tyrique McGhee.
I had the chance to watch Tyrique McGhee play before he made it to Athens. McGhee was part of a series of standout Peach County Trojan teams coached by Chad Campbell. If you’ve watched much Middle Georgia high school football over the years you know that the Trojans a) usually appear to be fielding a team of 23 year olds, and b) will not be out-physicaled by any opponent. The boys from Fort Valley and Byron get to the ball fast and arrive in a bad mood year after year.
And so it is with that context that Tyrique McGhee’s contributions at Georgia in 2017 should make a lot of sense. There’s a very real chance that Tyrique McGhee may not start more than a couple of games this season. The competition in the UGA secondary, a unit for some time viewed as a bit of a liability, is fierce this fall. The ‘Dawgs return three seniors and one junior starter for packages in which four defensive backs are on the field. Aaron Davis has played as much football as anyone in Athens. Dominick Sanders is an All-SEC candidate. Malkom Parrish and Deandre Baker improved significantly through 2016 and have secured the corner spots.
But sophomore McGhee has the chance to be the surprise in the secondary, for a couple of reasons. For one, he’s possibly the best tackler in the UGA defensive backfield. It’s something that jumped off the screen when you watched his high school tape, and it continued as he became a solid contributor on special teams as a freshman. McGhee played in all thirteen games last season, and tallied nine tackles (eight of them on special teams). Six of McGhee’s stops came on kickoff returns, and a full half of those were stops inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. You want a gunner on kick coverage? Have I got the guy for you.
He’s currently working at both outside corner and the star position vacated by Maurice Smith. While Baker may have one spot nailed down, Parrish remains questionable for the opener with a broken foot. Yes, Kirby Smart says he hasn’t been ruled out. No, I’ve never known the head Bulldog to be reluctant to give the full story on injuries. Why do you ask?
The truth is McGhee may well be your game one starter at the corner spot. He may also see significant time alongside redshirt sophomore J.R. Reed at the star spot, a fifth defensive back which is on the field often in Smart and Mel Tucker’s defense (as much as 80% of snaps depending on the opponent).
I expect that McGhee’s tenaciousness, experience, and versatility will bring him off the bench ahead of more heralded freshmen even when Parrish returns. But regardless of where he’s ultimately situated Tyrique McGhee is a player you should get used to seeing on the field, the kind of player who could make a huge difference in a big game situation. Until later . . .