ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Georgia junior defensive back Mark Webb began his Bulldogs career as a receiver in 2017. / Georgia photo/Lauren Tolbert

The two players from Philadelphia on Georgia's football roster have traveled very different paths since arriving as fellow 2017 signees.

For junior running back D'Andre Swift, it's been a career filled with success.

An average of 6.8 yards per carry through two seasons. A 64-yard run against Auburn in the 2017 Southeastern Conference championship game that sealed the first league title for the Bulldogs in 12 years. A sophomore season a year ago that contained 1,049 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

For junior defensive back Mark Webb, however, the path has contained many more obstacles. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder came to Athens as a four-star receiver prospect but was moved by coach Kirby Smart to the secondary less than a month into his freshman season.

"I would describe my journey since I've been here as rough at the start, but it's gotten smoother as time has gone on," Webb said this week in a news conference. "As you understand the journey and what Coach Smart had planned for me, it's going in the right direction right now."

The Bulldogs practiced for two hours Tuesday in shoulder pads and shorts. The workout started outside but had to be moved indoors due to lightning.

Webb is not a starter when Georgia employs four defensive backs, but rarely are four used given today's offenses that spread the field and can use four-receiver sets. When opponents use a slot receiver this season, there is a good chance Webb will line up across from him.

It's a role that not only allows Webb to showcase his coverage skills but occasionally gives him an opportunity to leave the receiver and blitz the quarterback.

"You definitely get a rush when you know it's a blitz and you know you get to go," Webb said with a smile. "It's more of a physical position. There is a lot of tackling involved."

Though J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III are the returning safeties and Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes the returning cornerbacks, the Bulldogs expect to employ Webb, William Poole, Divaad Wilson, Tyrique McGhee and Otis Reese in various "star" or "money" roles as well. Georgia also has three touted defensive backs — Lewis Cine, DJ Daniel and Tyrique Stevenson — from its 2019 signing class who enrolled early.

Webb played mostly on special teams as a freshman, with his only tackle of that season occurring on the opening kickoff against Missouri. He played in all 14 games last year, starting the 49-7 win over Middle Tennessee State and collecting six of his 14 tackles for the season in the 27-10 triumph over Auburn.

Adjusting to a defense he describes as complicated was the biggest challenge Webb faced in his early days with the Bulldogs, but he played cornerback as well as receiver during his days with Archbishop Wood — Swift competed for rival St. Joseph's Prep — and became accustomed to life in the secondary. When Georgia lost three receivers off last year's team and a need was created, Webb was happy to stay put.

"I've never second-guessed being over here," he said.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT