ATHENS, Ga. - If there was a silver lining for Georgia's secondary in last season's 43-38 loss at Auburn, it was that all five starters would be back for the 2014 season.
That game will be remembered for safeties Josh-Harvey Clemons and Tray Matthews colliding and allowing Tigers receiver Ricardo Louis to make an improbable 73-yard touchdown reception, but it was a youthful mistake from which Georgia could learn under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Except that Grantham left in January for Louisville and quickly was replaced by Jeremy Pruitt. Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from the team in February and followed Grantham to Louisville, which is where cornerback Shaq Wiggins decided to transfer in May.
"People like different people for different reasons," Bulldogs senior cornerback Damian Swann said. "Those guys felt like Grantham's system was the way to go for them, but I didn't really have a choice. I'm not going to transfer somewhere, and on top of that I feel like I'm working for one of the top secondary coaches in the country."
Matthews was dismissed in June and transferred to Auburn, leaving Pruitt with only Swann and senior safety Corey Moore back from that quintet.
Pruitt was hired from Florida State, a program he helped guide to the 2013 national title. He came to FSU after serving as secondary coach on Alabama's 2011 and '12 national champions.
"It didn't surprise me when those guys left, because Coach Pruitt puts the best out there and doesn't play favorites," Moore said. "The cream always rises to the top, and everyone in this business knows that Coach Pruitt is one of the best. It is what it is, and at the end of the day, I play for the University of Georgia and Coach Pruitt.
"Coach Pruitt has a simple scheme, and he wants you to execute it. He gives everyone a chance to showcase their talents and play. You can't accuse him for not putting the best out there, and I felt like that was something we didn't have last year."
The departures of Harvey-Clemons, Wiggins and Matthews with eligibility remaining has left the secondary as the biggest question mark for Georgia this season. Though Swann and Moore know they will be playing a lot, the other spots have been up for grabs.
Former tailback J.J. Green, walk-on Aaron Davis, junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng and freshmen Rico Johnson and Malkom Parrish are among those vying for roles who weren't in the secondary picture this time last year,
"I wish the guys who left the best of luck, and I love them like brothers," Swann said. "It's just one of those things where they liked playing for somebody else more. When you really look at it, guys have to make decisions based upon themselves."
Said Moore: "We've got a lot to look back on and motivate us."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced in full pads for two hours Thursday and will hold their second scrimmage tonight and scrimmage special teams Saturday night. ... Senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson practiced in a regular jersey. ... Coach Mark Richt told reporters that Collin Barber has the edge over Adam Erickson at punter but that Erickson may handle pooch kicks. ... The medical disqualification of fullback Merritt Hall will not result in Quayvon Hicks moving back from tight end, Richt said, though Hicks would know what to do if needed. ... Richt was unsure of receiver Malcolm Mitchell's availability for the Clemson opener and chose not to elaborate.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.