Georgia improved across the board defensively last season in Jeremy Pruitt's first year as Bulldogs coordinator, and no player may have benefited more than cornerback Devin Bowman.
The 6-foot, 179-pound former Ridgeland High School standout struggled for much of his first three years in the program. Then Pruitt's arrival ignited a spark that led to Bowman making eight starts and becoming a reliable fixture in the secondary.
"Everybody had a clean state when Coach Pruitt came in," Bowman said by phone Tuesday night. "I just bought into the system, and I worked my butt off to show that I can play in this conference. I just followed my goals, and I achieved them."
Bowman had four-tackle performances last season in wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt, and his biggest highlight was a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 44-17 rout of the Commodores. That followed a redshirt sophomore season in 2013 in which he didn't make a single tackle.
Whether he reclaims a starting spot this season or comes off the bench to aid sophomores Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish, Bowman already has the admiration of Mark Mariakis, the former Ridgeland coach now assisting at Chattanooga Christian.
"Like most kids, particularly when they go to a major Division I program, it's a huge culture shock," Mariakis said. "You walk in, and really most freshmen are starting out as low men on the totem pole after being the limelight guys at their high school. He's just been steady, and I praise him for it every time I see him.
"Devin was ready last year when his opportunity presented itself, but I'm just proud of him for hanging in there during his early struggles."
Georgia held its eighth practice of the spring Tuesday, working out for two hours in full pads. The Bulldogs are scheduled to practice again Thursday and hold their second scrimmage Saturday.
Bowman said redshirting in 2011 was the toughest experience he has been through in Athens.
A rash of suspensions led to him starting the 2012 opener against Buffalo, and he collected the first two tackles of his career. The Bulldogs had four seniors in their 2012 secondary, but Bowman seemed to backtrack in 2013, which was the fourth and final year of former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
"When Grantham was here, it kind of seemed like I was always in a development stage," Bowman said. "I probably wasn't ready, but when Pruitt came in, I felt like I had been around the game for a while. I started to pick things up really fast and got better."
That it's his final season hasn't hit yet, he insists, but his objective is clear.
"My biggest goal is to leave nothing behind and to lay it all out," Bowman said.
Odds and ends
Bulldogs junior cornerback Shattle Fenteng will miss the rest of spring practice with a rib injury. ... Chuks Amaechi, who played last fall at Arizona Western College, practiced at outside linebacker Tuesday after starting spring practice inside. ... When asked to provide an update on his brothers, Bowman said that Adarius is preparing for camp with the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos and that Michael is working in Chattanooga. Adarius played at Oklahoma State after first signing with North Carolina, and Michael signed with Alabama.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.