The UGA football team’s defensive backs showed some improvement as the season went on but having a year under their belt in Kirby Smart’s system could lead to an even better 2017 season.
2016 in Review
The Bulldogs forced 15 interceptions in 2016, which ranked them as the 22nd best team in this category. Safety Dominick Sanders led the team with three interceptions and after him, 6 other players had two interceptions each. The Bulldogs had the 16th ranked pass defense in 2016 as they only averaged giving up 183.8 passing yards per game. They also returned one interception for a touchdown in 2016 and that lone interception return led the Bulldogs over the ninth-ranked Auburn Tigers as it was the winning touchdown for them in the 13-7 contest.
The Bulldogs stuck with the same starters for the majority of the season with the only change being that cornerback Juwuan Briscoe was eventually replaced by cornerback Deandre Baker. The other starters joining Baker in the Bulldogs defensive backfield were Aaron Davis, Maurice Smith, Malkom Parrish, and Dominick Sanders. The Bulldogs will return all of these starters except for Smith.
Bulldogs Coming and Going
Maurice Smith and Quincy Mauger are the only Bulldogs graduating from the defensive backfield that had significant playing time, but they are losing four players to transfer. Former starter Juwuan Briscoe, along with Rico McGraw, Kirby Choates, and Reggie Wilkerson have each announced their decision to transfer away from the program. Losing six defensive backs definitely would put concerns on the depth at these positions but the Bulldogs 2017 recruiting class has helped alleviate these worries.
The Bulldogs signed 7 defensive backs in 2017 and some of them should have an immediate impact in the upcoming season. The two guys who have the best chance to earn some starting time are not only the Bulldogs highest rated defensive back signees but they are also early enrollees. Richard LeCounte III and Deangelo Gibbs both are favorites to land some playing time in 2017 and should fight for the starting role that was left by Maurice Smith. The five other defensive back signees that the Bulldogs had are Eric Stokes, Latavious Brini, Tray Bishop, William Poole III, and Ameer Speed.
What to expect in 2017
Georgia will have one of the most experienced defensive backfields in the SEC and that experience should make them one of the best in 2017. Although they will have some experience, the Bulldogs will also have some young but extremely talented recruits that should have some sort of impact. Experienced players like Sanders and Baker will lead the defensive backfield and incoming recruits like Gibbs, Speed, and LeCounte III should give the Bulldogs not only a talented starting group of defensive backs but a skilled group that has depth.
I expect this backfield to improve on how well they played last season and should make a run at being one of the nation’s best. I think LeCounte III should find a way in the starting rotation for the opening game of the season and he will turn some heads this season. This group overall is very talented and should create more big plays for the Bulldogs in 2017.
Catch up on the other position groups in the 2017 UGA Football Spring Preview series from Bulldawg Illustrated:
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Defensive Line – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Linebackers – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Offensive Line – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Quarterbacks – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Running Backs – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Special Teams – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Tight Ends – CLICK HERE
2017 UGA Football Spring Preview: Wide Receivers – CLICK HERE
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