PATH TO PLAYING TIME
Former Ridgeland High standout Devin Bowman could see sooner-than-expected playing time in Georgia's secondary after a turbulent three months:
Jan. 7 -- Cornerback Jordan Love transfers and later signs with Towson.
Jan. 21 -- Starting cornerback Sanders Commings is arrested for domestic violence/simple battery. Commings later gets suspended for two games.
Feb. 3 -- Cornerbacks Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders are dismissed from the program.
March 11 -- Projected starting cornerback Branden Smith is arrested for marijuana possession in South Alabama on the way to spring break. His punishment has not been announced.
March 28 -- Starting safety Bacarri Rambo reportedly fails a drug test following spring break and, according to his high school coach, will be suspended four games.
As the Georgia Bulldogs went through bowl preparations this past December, redshirting freshman cornerback Devin Bowman looked to the 2012 season and figured his best chance for playing time would be returning punts.
A lot has changed.
Since Georgia's triple-overtime loss to Michigan State in Tampa, three defensive backs have left the program and three others have been suspended. The former Ridgeland High School standout has worked this spring as the second-team boundary corner behind senior Sanders Commings, who has been suspended for opening games against Buffalo and Missouri.
"This is a big step for me, and I feel like this is my chance to show the world that I can play," Bowman said. "I want to show my coaches, myself, my mom -- just everybody. I think it's time for me to play."
Bowman's story is dripping with opportunity, but with irony as well.
Bulldogs senior cornerback Branden Smith and senior safety Bacarri Rambo are being suspended for marijuana-related issues, which is enabling Bowman a chance to get earlier-than-expected playing time. Yet it was marijuana-related issues that sidetracked the career of his older brother, former Notre Dame High and Oklahoma State receiver Adarius Bowman.
"Whatever happened to my brother is in the past, and our whole family has moved on from that," Bowman said. "That has nothing to do with me, and I'm not involved in any of that."
Adarius Bowman was pegged by The Sporting News before the 2007 season as the top overall prospect in the Big 12, and he was projected by ESPN analyst Todd McShay as an early second-round pick before the '08 NFL draft. Three weeks before that draft, however, Bowman was arrested in McMinn County and charged with marijuana possession, which left him without any NFL opportunities, even as a free agent.
The elder Bowman, who originally signed with North Carolina but was dismissed after being caught with marijuana and for failing a drug test, has excelled the past four years in the Canadian Football League and is coming off a 62-catch, 1,153-yard season last year with Edmonton.
"Devin was never one when he was with us to be in that kind of circle," Ridgeland football coach Mark Mariakis said. "He has seen some examples of just how distractions, whether drugs or alcohol or whatever bad character it may be, can destroy plans. Hopefully he has seen those mistakes made by other people and learned from them and can stay clear of them.
"There are temptations out there for everyone, but particularly for young kids in college. You just hope he makes good decisions and that he surrounds himself with good people who will hold him accountable."
Michael Bowman, the middle of the three talented brothers, is an Alabama receiver but has been suspended since last season for reasons coach Nick Saban has yet to disclose.
The youngest Bowman has not been without obstacles, needing three tries to pass the English language arts portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test. After receiving the necessary score last August, he arrived in Athens behind his fellow freshmen who had participated in the voluntary workouts in June and July.
It was no surprise that Bowman redshirted -- he adjusted quickly in the classroom by making the honor roll for fall semester -- and his days of having to play catch-up appear to be over.
"I really have been getting it as far as plays, the system and just learning everything I really need to know so I can play here at Georgia," he said. "My biggest thing is just staying in my playbook every single day. That's my big thing right now. When I was on the scout team I was in my playbook, but not as much as I am right now."
Said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham: "Devin Bowman has done a nice job of coming along. He kind of came in late last year and was kind of behind, so I've been impressed with his progress."
The 6-foot, 175-pounder is on track to make his collegiate debut Sept. 1 and could really be challenged the following week, when Missouri plays its first SEC foe as an SEC member. The Tigers made a splash in recruiting by signing receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who is 6-6 and was Rivals.com's top prep prospect nationally.
"We haven't watched any footage and we really don't know the depth chart, but if I do get the chance to play against him, I'm going to make the best of it," Bowman said. "These past few weeks have been crazy, but I'm just trying to get myself prepared."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...