Today's first football scrimmage at Georgia will have no bearing on the status of starting quarterback Hutson Mason or starting tailback Todd Gurley.
Yet it could be a statement opportunity for multiple Bulldogs, including walk-on defensive back Aaron Davis. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound redshirt freshman from Locust Grove, Ga., earned a first-team cornerback spot for the G-Day spring game but now is practicing at safety under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
"Every rep in practice is big for me, but this will definitely be a test to see how far I've progressed," Davis said by phone.
He was moved to safety earlier this summer after Tray Matthews, a six-game starter last season, was dismissed from the team. Matthews since has transferred to Auburn, where he will sit out this year.
Switching positions has its challenges, but Davis believes he is making strides.
"The safety has a little bit more responsibility, so I've just been learning a little bit more each and every day," Davis said. "I feel more natural at cornerback, but playing safety has helped me more with my range as far as being able to cover the whole field."
Davis had his college scholarship hopes derailed by two knee surgeries at Luella High School. He tore his left ACL the spring before his junior year and later had a partial tear, which required the second surgery.
After joining the Bulldogs last summer as a preferred walk-on, Davis dressed out for three games last season but never got in.
"When I got here, I never felt like I had anything to prove," he said. "I always had my own identity, and I've always been about playing for my teammates and my coaches. Those are the ones I want to be out there for."
His coaches have noticed.
"Coach Pruitt from the very beginning liked a lot of things about him -- his intelligence, his work ethic, his athleticism," head coach Mark Richt said earlier this week in a news conference. "When you're in there coaching guys in the meeting and you're drilling it and half of them get it and the other half don't, but one guy every day is just on point -- I can trust that guy.
"He's definitely going to help us."
As Davis watched the Bulldogs last season, he saw Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons competing a lot at safety, as well as Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley at cornerback. Harvey-Clemons and Wiggins now are sitting out at Louisville, while Langley is practicing now at receiver.
That leaves Davis with a better-than-average sense of timing.
"I feel like I did catch this at a good time," he said. "Regardless if we had the coaching change, I've worked my tail off to contribute for this team, but I am fortunate that everyone has a clean slate. A new coach comes in, and he doesn't know everybody except for the tape he may have seen, so there is definitely a bigger window of opportunity."
Odds and ends
Richt praised the Bulldogs between Friday's practices for having more stamina compared to past years. ... On the backup quarterback battle between Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey, Richt said, "It might be tight enough to where it's a week-to-week decision." ... Richt said junior Quayvon Hicks is now a "legitimate tight end" but could still play fullback. ... Senior Watts Dantzler of Dalton continues to "put his hat in the ring" for quality playing time up front. ... Richt on junior tight end Jay Rome (foot) swinging a pickax on the sideline during Thursday's workout: "If a guy can't run, you've got to burn calories somehow."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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 ...