Kirby Smart has already stated some concern on how young this UGA football team’s secondary is and there is definitely going to be some growing pains, but this group has the potential to improve on the secondary’s success from last season.
The Bulldogs have lost multiple significant contributors to graduation specifically Aaron Davis, Dominick Sanders, and Malkom Parrish. They each had solid careers with Sanders leading the way, so replacing them will be no easy task. However, the Bulldogs do have the talent in their arsenal, but how they actually perform on the field is still to be seen. Breaking down the secondary in the area of safeties and cornerbacks, here is what I expect to see from this group this fall.
The Bulldogs are returning Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee as their two probable starters at the corner spots. Following them on the depth chart will be a lot of young talent with Ameer Speed, Mark Webb, William Poole and Eric Stokes next in line for these corner spots. With the possibility of Tyrique McGhee taking over the STAR position that will leave one starting cornerback spot open for these returning guys to vie over.
If McGhee moves to STAR, I like Speed to jump up next in line at that corner spot. Mark Webb is also challenging for not only the other starting cornerback role, but also the STAR. Speed just has great height and solid quickness for the position. His big body will give opposing quarterbacks a tough person to throw around throughout games next season.
The Bulldogs have one freshman early enrollee on campus already in Divaad Wilson, who suffered an ACL tear this spring. Wilson was set to get some early playing time as an early enrollee but now other freshman corners have a chance to join the fold for playing time. Tyson Campbell, Nadab Joseph, and Chris Smith round out the Bulldogs impressive cornerback signing class and when they arrive in the fall, they should make a big impression. There’s no telling what they will bring to the Bulldogs secondary.
As of right now, look for McGhee, Baker, and Speed to have the most playing time and Webb to put up a huge challenge for more playing time.
This is arguably the Bulldogs most depleted section on the defensive side of the ball. However, J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte will be expected to step up for the graduated Dominick Sanders. Reed had an outstanding season last year in his first season with the Bulldogs and Smart has often pointed to him this spring as one of the guys who is stepping up as a leader. Reed is the only Bulldog at the safety spot that I believe has locked down his starting job.
As for LeCounte, Tray Bishop, Jarvis Wilson, and Latavious Brini will all be eager to swipe the starting job. Smart has already said that LeCounte still has a lot of learning to do, so his readiness is in question. However, I think this is a challenge from coach Smart as he wants LeCounte to pump up not only himself to work harder, but the team as well.
Nadab Joseph is a recruit who was mentioned earlier that could step into this position. Also, watch out and see if Deangelo Gibbs is able to rejoin and get back to work with the team as he was a favorite to start at the STAR position before his medical issues.
Overall the Bulldogs secondary is young, but this youth has an extreme amount of potential. Their performance will play an absolute huge role in the Bulldogs ability to get back into the national championship.