ATHENS, Ga. - The once-promising 2013 football season for Georgia cornerback Damian Swann began with a missed tackle that sprang former Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins to a 77-yard touchdown reception, and it didn't get much better from there.
Swann had concluded the 2012 season with two interceptions in the Capital One Bowl victory over Nebraska, but he failed to intercept a pass last year in a secondary that was torched on multiple occasions. Georgia's 227.4 passing yards allowed per game ranked ninth in the Southeastern Conference and was the highest total yielded by the Bulldogs since Mark Richt's inaugural season as coach in 2001.
"I'm just going to leave the past in the past," Swann said earlier this month. "I've got a new coach, and I've got new teammates. It's just a new start, and I think that's how everybody is going to treat it. We're all here for the same thing, and that is to win."
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound senior from Atlanta has started all 27 games the past two seasons, but there were no first-team guarantees when defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was hired in January following the departure of Todd Grantham to Louisville. Swann had a first-team spot during the G-Day spring game, and his grip as a starter as well as a leader of the secondary has grown in recent weeks.
Pruitt said earlier this month that Swann was the only defensive back "playing winning football," and all signs are pointing to Swann wanting to make the most of his final few months.
"I think Damian is going to do a great job this year of being a leader on the field and off the field," senior safety Corey Moore said. "Damian had a great sophomore year and didn't have as productive of a junior season as he wanted, so I think that has motivated him."
Said Pruitt: "Damian is very smart. Football comes easy to him. He's very instinctive, and he's got great initial quickness. He's got a chance to be a really solid player."
Swann was a 2011 "Dream Team" signee who was a Rivals.com top-50 national prospect. He joined a secondary containing the experienced likes of Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams and flourished, making 53 tackles and a team-high four interceptions in 2012.
Commings, Rambo and Williams left after that season, however, and Swann struggled a year ago along with the youthful replacements, not that he's dwelling on last year's disappointments.
"I'm happy," Swann said. "I've played a lot of college football, and a lot of guys don't even get that opportunity to even play on this level. Regardless of some of the things that have happened in my career, I'm always satisfied and I'm always happy with how far I've come. I'm just a small kid from Atlanta, and I don't see a lot of people make it out from where I'm from.
"Just being able to go out on my own and pursue an education and play college football in front of almost 100,000 people every week is just a blessing, and it's something I'll never forget."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours Saturday morning and then held their annual watermelon feast. ... Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo told reporters Friday that freshman tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will at least play special teams in Saturday's opener against Clemson but did not guarantee any number of carries for the touted twosome. ... Georgia will take today off before resuming workouts Monday afternoon.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.