February 16, 2010

Defensive backs getting a fresh start

To those fans longing for a fresh start in Georgia's defensive backfield, this is your year.

When the Bulldogs kick off spring practice on March 4, three of the four starting positions will be up for grabs, following the graduations of Prince Miller and Bryan Evans along with Reshad Jones, who left school a year early to apply for the NFL Draft.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either bad or welcomed news. Over the years, the trio has received their share of criticism from Bulldog fans, and Georgia's secondary play in recent years did play a small part in the dismissal of former defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.

Looking ahead, new secondary coach Scott Lakatos said he's impressed with what he's seen by both Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith, who along with Jordan Love, Vance Cuff, Chad Gloer and incoming freshman Derek Owens figure to be the focal points at cornerback.

Don't forget about Sanders Commings.

When Lakatos first arrived at Georgia, he talked about his preference for taller corners. At 6-foot-2, Sanders, who did play some corner for the Bulldogs last fall, certainly fits that mold.

"He played both spots last year and we saw that on tape. He'll probably still be the same type of guy that he was last year, a guy who was a big, physical, long corner that can also go into a game and play at some safety spots," Lakatos said. "It's all going to depend on what he can do best and what we need, which would determine how we will ultimately use him."

The same is true at safety, where the departure of Evans and Jones ensures two new starters at those two important positions.

Redshirt sophomore Bacarri Rambo is all but assured at starting at one.Rambo, who suffered a concussion late in the Auburn game, is back 100 percent and anxious to make his mark this spring.

He won't be alone.

Oft-injured Quintin Banks can make an impact providing he can stay healthy, along with fellow returnees Makiri Pugh and Shawn Williams, who saw most of his action on special teams.

"I'm going to be out there competing like everybody else," Williams said. "I'll be out there competing with Rambo, Q-Banks and Jakar Hamilton. We'll all be out there trying to see who can win the job."

Winning a job is certainly something that Hamilton has on his mind.One of two early enrollees along with freshman offensive lineman Kolton Houston, Hamilton will get an early jump for extended PT ahead of incoming freshmen Marc Deas and Alec Ogletree, the latter of whom is also a good bet to make an early impact in Georgia's safety plans.

Hamilton believes he's gotten off to a quick start.

"I've really bonded with all the players, (Brandon) Boykin, everybody, all through the recruiting process. Rambo keeps telling me he's really happy I'm coming here; he thinks we can be the best safety duo in the SEC next year," Hamilton said. "I'm just ready to get out there. You can put me and (Rambo) at safety, Rambo and Tree (Ogletree) at safety, me at corner - I'll even play some wide receiver if they'll let me. It's going to be wonderful to see."

Looking ahead towards the 2011 season, the Bulldogs are in dire need of cornerbacks.

With only four cornerbacks currently on the roster, Georgia will be looking for talented athletes who are ready to contribute early and often. Two in state prospects and two national recruits have been targeted so far at the position.

Jabriel Washington burst onto the scene after an impressive performance at Georgia's Dawg Night camp his sophomore year. Georgia showed interest early, and Washington admits he was a Bulldog fan early on in high school.

Since then, 20 offers have come in, making the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Washington one of the most coveted athletes in the country. Georgia had an early lead, but Washington told UGASports last week that Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee are now in the top group as well.

Last year's Mark Richt Camp saw a traveling group consisting of some of the best talent from Ohio come down and compete in Athens. One of the standouts of that squad was St. Vincent -St Mary junior Doran Grant, who impressed the Georgia staff enough to give him his second offer, after Georgia Tech had seen and offered him the day before.

Ohio State could be tough to beat for the Rivals250 watch list prospect, but Georgia will get another chance to impress Grant this spring when he plans to visit Athens to watch Georgia practice.

Two in state juniors targeted already are Valdosta's Malcolm Mitchell and Grady's Damian Swann. Both Mitchell and Swann are considered top athletes who could project to a number of other positions as well.

Mitchell has elite top end speed, and is always a threat when the ball is in his hands, whether on offense, after an interception/fumble return, or in the return game. His film went out last week, and Georgia quickly offered the 6-1, 170-pound Valdosta native.

Swann is considered by UGASports to be the top defensive back in Georgia at both cornerback and safety. Alabama led early for the top five Peach State prospect, but a visit to Athens for their first Junior Day has brought the Bulldogs into a tie with the Crimson Tide. An early recruiting battle is shaping up, as Swann plans to visit Alabama this weekend for their Junior Day, and possibly Georgia again at the end of the month.

Georgia got off to a quick start at safety in the 2011 class with their first two commitments being top in state safeties.

Tucker's Chris Sanders showcased his athleticism at last July's Dawg Night camp, making a number of plays while lining up at wideout. Sanders is a raw talent who projects as a true free safety in college.

Sanders chose Georgia over early offers from Central Florida, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and West Virginia. Alabama was close to offering the 6-1, 185-pound prospect, but he did not waste any time accepting the offer from Georgia.

Corey Moore from Griffin could be the top pure safety in Georgia for next year. At 6-1, 190-pounds, Moore is a hard-hitting strong safety that shows good range, is a solid tackler, and has a knack for making the big hit.

Ogletree was the top safety and a top ten talent in Georgia last year, and Moore could be that guy in next year's class.

There can never be enough talent in the secondary, and if Georgia gets another safety, look for it to be Kell's Brian Randolph. He has ties to Mississippi State because his father graduated there, but Georgia was in on the Marietta standout early and often.

Randolph loves the SEC, and the 6-1, 175-pound has Georgia in his top five, along with Florida, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, and Tennessee. Look for Randolph to decide by the end of the summer, if not sooner.

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