- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- He says nothing is official yet, but Georgia defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos could be without three valuable seniors -- Sanders Commings, Branden Smith and Bacarri Rambo -- at the start of the season because of disciplinary issues.
Lakatos told reporters Thursday that he’s treating that situation the same as he would if he lost players to injury. He’s working with the other possible contributors to ensure that the Bulldogs have enough depth available when they open the season.
In a group media interview Thursday, Lakatos discussed the team’s secondary depth and which players are standing out this spring:
On Commings’ absence during the early part of practice that was open to the media:
SL: Sanders had class. Yeah, he got there. He’s fine. He’s good to go.
What about Rambo?
SL: He’s working through a couple [injury-related] things. So he’s good. … He’s fine. Nothing serious.
On Connor Norman’s role in defense:
SL: He knows this defense really well. … He repped the entire season last year as a backup, took all his reps in practice. We haven’t changed anything, so he’s got a comfort level now. Plus he could also be a nickel if we need him to be. He’s a smart guy who can do a lot of things. He’s versatile, so we may use him. He’ll be ready.
Is versatility the biggest thing at that position?
SL: I just think it’s more the person. That position isn’t necessarily a guy that can play multiple positions, but he can. That’s the type of player he is. He’s a smart guy, works hard. It’s important to him. He wants to get on the field, so he makes himself more knowledgeable so he gets a better opportunity.
Who’s next if Rambo can’t go?
What if he can’t go?
SL: Let’s see. We’ve got Connor and Corey [Moore]. Corey’s come a long way. We’re happy with his progress. Who else do I have? … [Quintavius] Harrow’s getting some work in there and Shawn [Williams] could always go over and play free and Corey could play strong, or vice versa. We can mix and match if need be.
How much does he know about what’s happening, discipline wise? Still to-be-determined things?
SL: Yeah. From what I understand, nothing’s really been finalized yet so we’re just going about our business.
On what coaches wanted to see from Corey Moore this spring:
SL: Well, I just think it’s his general knowledge of the defense. And the adjustments that go with his position, he had to become comfortable with. It’s one thing to call a coverage in the huddle and just go out and run that thing, but when the offense starts moving people around and you have to adjust, you have to make an adjustment in a hurry. The more comfortable he becomes, the better he can play. So he’s learned a lot and he’s executing some things right now the way we want them to be, so he’s doing a good job.
How comfortable is the coach with the depth that will be available in the first game or two?
SL: We’ll be fine. Like I said, we’ve got enough guys that know how to do more than one thing, so we’ll be fine. Barring any catastrophic rash of injuries, we should be OK.
On whether what has already happened was catastrophic:
SL: I look at it like this: What would happen if a guy gets injured and you lose a guy for X amount of time? You’ve got to line up and play, so someone’s got to play. Whatever the reason is, if you have to replace people that’s part of the game. That’s why you have depth and that’s why you have practice -- to make sure that you’re covered.
On Marc Deas’ departure and other depth hits:
SL: I think anytime a guy wants to leave because he wants to better his chances of playing, you can’t blame him. He’s the one that has to be happy with his decision, so it’s just a matter of, "Do you like Georgia or would you rather go somewhere and feel like you can play more?" If that’s what he wants to do, we certainly wish him the best. He’s a good man.
On whether Lakatos saw Shawn Williams’ big season happening last year in fall camp:
SL: Yeah, you kind of see it a little bit last spring because he became more familiar with the package. He’s actually one of our smarter guys now. He knows all the ins and outs and he knows all the things that create some problems. He’s a good communicator now, he helps the guys around him and he’s pretty knowledgeable, so we’re very pleased with Shawn’s progress.
On Williams’ reputation as a big hitter and whether that’s his main calling card:
SL: No, I think that’s part of his deal. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and that’s what you want. You want physical, hard-nosed guys that are athletes. That’s what he gives you. He can do some things in the deep zone; he can do some things in man coverage. He can also, when it comes down to it, stick his face in there and knock some people backwards, and you’ve got to have that. You like to have that element in your secondary.
On what cornerbacks the coach has been pleased with this spring:
SL: I think they’re all getting better. Branden Smith has improved. He had a list of things that he wanted to get better at this spring, which I think he’s accomplishing. I think Damian Swann is playing more. Malcolm [Mitchell] obviously is coming in there and doing a great job. Blake Sailors is doing a good job back there. I think all those guys are progressing. They’re getting better every single day.
16hSam Khan Jr. and Derek Tyson