ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia football coach Mark Richt doesn't want too much made of the depth chart for Saturday aftermoon's opener against Clemson, but what seems evident is Devin Bowman's return to roster relevance.
The former Ridgeland High School standout was listed as a starting cornerback opposite senior Damian Swann. Whether Bowman actually makes his second career start won't be known until the official 5:36 kickoff on ESPN, but the 6-foot, 179-pound redshirt junior apparently has made sizable strides compared to this time last year.
"Bowman has come a long way," Swann said. "He's matured, and he's getting his confidence back to where he knows he can play. Bowman has been the talent that came in with me when we first got here. He's had his struggles with learning, but in the new system I think he's held his own as far as showing what he can learn and showing that he can compete and showing that he deserves a shot to play."
So when did Bowman turn things around?
"It was right around the time we had the coaching change," Swann said. "He saw where he had another opportunity, and he took advantage of it. Now it's time for him to take everything that he has been doing in the meeting room and on the practice field to the games."
Bowman is backed by junior-college transfer Shattle Fenteng on the depth chart, while Swann is backed by true freshman Malkom Parrish. Georgia's depth chart lists five defensive backs, with Corey Moore at strong safety, redshirt freshman walk-on Aaron Davis at free safety and true freshman Dominick Sanders at the "star" position.
After redshirting in 2011, Bowman had a sooner-than-expected starting opportunity in the 2012 opener against Buffalo. That chance came about when former cornerback/safety Sanders Commings had to serve a two-game suspension for a domestic violence arrest, and former safety Bacarri Rambo had to serve a four-game suspension for a reported marijuana-related incident.
Bowman played for much of the 45-23 win over Buffalo and was in for a decent amount the following week in a 41-20 win at Missouri, but his playing time decreased sharply once Commings returned.
Reports surfaced last year that Bowman had been suspended, and his first action last autumn was on the opening kickoff of the fifth game at Tennessee. Georgia never announced any suspension, but that's when Moore noticed the change in his teammate.
"When that situation happened to him last year, I think that's when the switch turned on," Moore said. "He wanted to better himself on and off the field, and you could tell he was trying to change for the better."
Bowman tallied 13 appearances as a redshirt freshman and recorded nine tackles. He did not have a tackle in any of his nine games a year ago.
Richt did not elaborate much when asked about Bowman this week, pointing out he was having a good camp until a hamstring pull and that he is practicing again. Bowman was not made available for this article and has not been quoted by the Times Free Press since March of 2013, but his secondary teammates are excited about what could be in store.
"Bowman has done a good job of communicating, being himself and learning the playbook," Moore said. "He's being a great team player, and I think he did a great job of overcoming some obstacles. I think he's going to be a great player for us this year."
Tommy Bowden was 72-45 in his nearly 10 years as Clemson's coach, and Dabo Swinney has been even better at 51-23. Bowden was a recent guest of "Press Row" on ESPN 105.1 The Zone and discussed his successor.
"He's a really good recruiter, and he's a really good manager of people," Bowden said. "I think he will admit that he's not a great X's and O's guy. He tried his hand in play-calling a year or two after I left, and I think they went 6-7, but that's when he hired [offensive coordinator] Chad Morris. He's got Brent Venables as defensive coordinator, so he's a good selector of coaches.
"He does a good job of being a CEO as opposed to being a [Steve] Spurrier or a [Bobby] Petrino, who are play-callers and head coaches."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.