From concern to crisis: battered Georgia secondary looking for answers

Richt: 'You can’t hardly learn or get better if you don’t practice. We haven’t had enough healthy guys to become as good as we can be'

Georgia's  Damian Swann tackles Alabama's Chris Black in the first quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Georgia's Damian Swann tackles Alabama's Chris Black in the first quarter.

With Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and a fleet of orange-clad receivers just a few days away from launching an aerial assault against the Georgia secondary, the Bulldogs appear to be outnumbered.

Those appearances aren’t deceiving; right now, they are outnumbered.

Nagging injuries have plagued the unit since fall camp began and time is running out before an Aug. 31 play date in Death Valley.

Several players continue to miss practice, and there is still no real consensus on who’ll be filling out all the corner and safety spots when the Bulldogs invade Memorial Stadium a week from Saturday.

“It’s banged up and you can’t hardly learn or get better if you don’t practice,” UGA coach Mark Richt said. “You can learn things but until you’re out there doing it, it’s hard to know what they’re comprehending and what they can execute. We haven’t had enough healthy guys to become as good as we can be.”

Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons won’t be playing against the Tigers; he was suspended for the opener back in May.

But two other safeties, Tray Matthews and Corey Moore, have problems of their own.

Moore has been sidelined by a sprained knee, and Matthews, after wearing the green jersey (limited contact) last week, was out of Monday’s full pads workout with an injured shoulder and pulled hamstring.

Throw in a shoulder injury to cornerback Sheldon Dawson, and a secondary that’s already young and largely inexperienced has more obstacles to overcome.

However, there have been positives to build on.

Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley, both freshmen CBs, have been forced to grow up quickly.

According to the veteran of the crew, they have.

“Both of them average almost a pick a day and that’s good,” said junior cornerback Damian Swann,who is dealing with a flexor/groin strain. “That’s a confidence-builder for them. I think that’s what they need when it comes down to the situation whoever is called on to play at the other position.

“I think either one of them will be ready.”

Swann has mentored the group and his leadership will be a key factor against Clemson.

He was named to both the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski Award watch lists over the summer and is coming off a sophomore season in which he paced the team with four interceptions.

He had 53 tackles in 2012 and also registered two sacks and forced a pair of fumbles.

Still, he’s going to need some backup.

“The whole focus is getting guys ready to play for the first ballgame,” UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “We’ve had to move some guys around because of injuries and in some ways, that’s OK, because it forces guys to learn more than one thing, which is a good thing.

“Right now we have a pencil that makes the lineup. The guys who produce are the ones who’ll play. If we need to make a change we’ll do it.”

The window for the secondary to get healthy is closing rapidly. However, Swann says anyone who thinks the Bulldogs’ last line of defense won’t be ready for Boyd and company is mistaken.

“That’s just noise,” Swann said. “Don’t nobody strap it up but us. Don’t nobody get on that field but us. When it comes time to get in between those white lines, we’ve just got to show up. We’re going to be ready.

“We’re going to be fine.”

Noted

On Tuesday UGA worked out in helmets and shorts and today the Bulldogs will hold their final scrimmage before the Clemson game.

Richt says it’s a practice game in which reserves and scout team players will attempt to mimic Clemson.

“It’s no longer Georgia vs. Georgia,” Richt said. “It’s Georgia vs. Clemson the rest of the way.”

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Comments » 2

33dtb writes:

Sandbagging

rsb8931#286014 writes:

Surely Coach Richt doesn't think Clemson is dumb enough to get over confident because he says he doesn't have enough players due to some nagging injuries. We may have fallen off the turnip truck but it wasn't at night and for sure it wasn't last night. Come on coach, give us a little more credit for having a little bit of stuff between our ears other than air!

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