Secondary a Georgia focus moving forward

Secondary a Georgia focus moving forward

April 16th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia walk-on safety Lucas Redd (24) closes in on receiver Michael Bennett during Saturday's G-Day game in Athens, Ga.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Georgia's starting secondary for the upcoming football season could have contained Damian Swann and Nick Marshall as senior cornerbacks with Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons as the promising safeties.

Marshall was dismissed from the program in the winter of 2012 and resurfaced in the Southeastern Conference last year as Auburn's starting quarterback, guiding the Tigers to the national championship game. A big reason the Tigers won the SEC and played for the BCS crown was a costly collision involving Harvey-Clemons and Matthews, which enabled Marshall to complete a miraculous 73-yard touchdown.

Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from Georgia earlier this year and Matthews continues to battle hamstring woes, and their absences helped result in a first-team secondary at G-Day that contained senior walk-on safety Lucas Redd and redshirt freshman walk-on cornerback Aaron Davis.

"When they posted the rosters of who was playing where, I realized that whether you're starting or not starting, they are just getting guys in spots learning how to play," Redd said after the game. "It's been like that all spring. Everybody is just trying to learn, take in as much information as they can every day, and execute."

Georgia first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt met with reporters following Tuesday's 14th spring practice and said his defensive backs are starting to figure things out but still have a long way to go.

Swann and senior Corey Moore comprised the scholarship portion of the starting G-Day secondary, and Moore led the Black team with seven tackles. Redd, whose one career tackle with the Bulldogs occurred last season at Vanderbilt, was next on the Black team with six stops.

"I would think Lucas has a chance to play some scrimmage downs," coach Mark Richt said after G-Day. "Connor Norman was in that role before, a walk-on coming out of nowhere. Aaron Davis came out of nowhere.

"If you're wondering if we're telling the truth about this thing being wide open, then just look at those guys and the amount of reps they're getting."

When asked if having two walk-ons with the first team was a good thing, Richt said, "I think it is, because it's letting everybody understand that may the best man win regardless of who it is."

Georgia's starting offense hung 261 first-half yards on the starting defense at G-Day, which consisted of 12-minute quarters. Richt defended the defense in that there were two or three situations in which they weren't allowed to sack Hutson Mason, which might have caused a turnover.

"I think our defense is absolutely in the process of learning what to do and how to do it," Richt said. "Our coaches are doing a good job of making sure everybody gets it done the way they want to get it done. It's going to take time before we sit here and say who is going to line up as the No. 1 this or that on defense. We've got three freshmen (Malkom Parrish, Dominick Sanders and Shaquille Jones) and a junior college guy (Shattle Fenteng) coming into the secondary, and we think they will give us a boost."

Richt said it may not be until the second or third scrimmage of preseason before a starting lineup defensively is revealed.

Spring winners

Senior center David Andrews and senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson were named Tuesday as Georgia's offensive and defensive MVPs of spring practice.

Redshirt sophomore right guard Greg Pyke and junior outside linebacker James DeLoach won Most Improved honors. Hustle awards went to senior receiver Chris Conley and junior cornerback J.J. Green.

"I didn't want to give any awards, but that's what they've been doing here at Georgia, and that's what we did," Pruitt told reporters. "We had 50 guys out there on defense that all tried to do the same stuff. I didn't particularly see anybody that just stuck out that much that deserved an award.

"It's kind of like nowadays everybody's playing T-ball. You play T-ball, and everybody gets a trophy. You know?"

The happy camper

It was hard to find a bigger smile in the locker room after G-Day than the one provided by senior offensive lineman Mark Beard.

Beard made a couple of starts at left tackle late in the 2012 season but was expected to finish out his career at guard. That all changed last week when the 6-5, 300-pound junior college transfer from Adamsville, Ala., was moved back to left tackle, where he started at G-Day.

"That was the only position I had ever really played before I came here," Beard said. "I like being out there on that island."

Beard actually left the program in early February but had a quick change of heart and was allowed to return.

"It's been an interesting year," he said.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.