The recent dismissal of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu leaves LSU not as strong in the secondary, but Georgia senior strong safety Shawn Williams believes the Tigers have been second-best for a while.
"We are the best secondary in the country, and I thought we were last year," Williams said. "The thing LSU had over us were the wins, and that's all that counted. When they were winning, everybody was like, 'Oh, they're great,' but we were doing the same thing they were doing if you compare the stats, maybe even better."
Georgia's starting quartet of Williams, free safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Sanders Commings combined for 237 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 16 interceptions. LSU's foursome of Eric Reid, Brandon Taylor, Morris Claiborne and Mathieu totaled 274 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 12 picks.
It was all LSU in the SEC championship meeting, however, as Mathieu recovered a fumble to set up the go-ahead score and Claiborne returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown to seal the 42-10 rout.
Reid is the only player remaining for LSU, while Boykin is the only departure for Georgia, but it hasn't been a smooth few months for the Bulldogs. In fact, Williams is alone in coming away unscathed.
Commings was arrested in January for simple battery and domestic violence and has been suspended for the first two games, and Rambo reportedly failed a drug test after eating brownies with marijuana during spring break and may face a suspension as well. Branden Smith, who is stepping in for Boykin, was arrested for marijuana possession on his way to Florida for spring break, but he will not be suspended.
"I kind of look at it as I'm always going to be a leader while I'm here, and maybe on the next level, too," Williams said. "We've got to come out and do the best we can, no matter who those 11 are. We don't know how it's going to go, but we're going to fight with whoever we have."
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder from tiny Damascus, Ga., led the Bulldogs in tackles last season with 72, and he had five tackles for loss and four interceptions. In Georgia's triple-overtime loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, Williams had seven tackles and an interception he returned 45 yards.
Williams earned the prestigious True Grit Award this spring, and he enters his final season brimming with confidence.
"Shawn is a focused guy, and he knows what is important to him," Bulldogs secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. "The concept of team is important to him, and the concept of hard-nosed defense is important to him. That's the way he lives his life, and he sets an example for other guys to follow."
Said Williams: "We've just got to go out this year and win ballgames and play lights out, and we should have no problem doing that."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs worked out Thursday for two hours in shoulder pads and shorts. ... Among the limited were backup safety Connor Norman (shoulder contusion) and freshman tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith (strained hamstring).
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 ...