ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia's Devin Bowman worked throughout August football practices as a third-string cornerback behind Sanders Commings and Malcolm Mitchell, and the former Ridgeland High standout was beginning to wonder if he would play this season.
Bowman knew he might have a chance with Commings suspended for the first two games, and then opportunity knocked when Mitchell sprained his ankle last Thursday.
"When he went down, I was like, 'Get up, Malcolm. Get up,'" Bowman said this week. "Then he couldn't go, and it just gave me a little spark. I was like, 'OK, it's my time now.'"
Coaches came to Bowman after last Thursday's practice and told the 6-foot, 180-pound redshirt freshman to get his playbook and be ready for his first start.
"I was so happy," Bowman said, "because I had been waiting for this."
Bowman played nearly 50 snaps and graded out at 81 percent as the Bulldogs opened with a 45-23 dumping of Buffalo. The Bills rushed for 199 yards but didn't do as much aerial damage against Bowman and the rest of Georgia's nickel package, throwing for 148 yards.
The Bulldogs had four defensive backs who set career highs in plays against the Bills - Bowman, cornerback Damian Swann and safeties Connor Norman and Corey Moore - and all four could be needed again in Saturday's league opener at Missouri. Mitchell is improving but has practiced on a limited basis this week, and coaches aren't announcing if suspended safety Bacarri Rambo will play or not.
"Devin will have a great challenge this weekend for sure," coach Mark Richt said. "All of our corners and defensive backs will. Missouri has these outstanding receivers that are really good at what they do."
Missouri lists six receivers at 6-foot-4 or taller, with 6-6, 220-pound freshman Dorial Green-Beckham the tallest of the bunch. Green-Beckham was rated by Rivals.com as the top overall prospect in the 2012 signing class and had three catches for 32 yards in last week's 62-10 trouncing of Southeastern Louisiana.
"He's a remarkably talented player, and he is what people think he is," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's very humble and a great team player, and guys like that have a chance to be really, really good. They ask for coaching, and that is everything he is.
"He has worked at inside and outside positions for a complex offense with multiple formations."
T.J. Moe, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, led the Tigers last season with 649 yards on 54 receptions.
Swann and Bowman believe they will be up for the challenge, with Swann going so far as to say, "We're going to play our game, whether that is old-man football or not." Bowman received congratulations last week from older bothers Adarius, a CFL receiver who tore his ACL in July, and Michael, a former Alabama receiver who is now at Alabama State.
More praise would be warranted should Bowman aid another win this week.
"Their receivers look good, and it's going to be a challenge," he said. "I just hope that our defensive line and linebackers can get to their quarterback on time."
Odds and ends
Right tackles John Theus and Watts Dantzler practiced in noncontact jerseys Wednesday for the first time since spraining ankles last Saturday. ... Senior receiver Marlon Brown expects to play after missing the opener with a hamstring pull. ... There are 35 former Georgia players on active NFL rosters, and the only program with more is Southern Cal with 42.