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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Post-spring position review: CB

By David Ching

Editor’s note: Our DawgNation post-spring positional analysis continues this week after focusing on the offense last week. Today we examine the cornerbacks:

Damian Swann
Damian Swann is Georgia's only returning starter in the secondary, making his leadership ability key.
Returning players/stats: Damian Swann, Jr. (14 starts in 2012. 53 tackles, four interceptions, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries); Sheldon Dawson, So. (12 tackles); Blake Sailors, Sr. (Eight tackles); Devin Bowman, So. (One start. Nine tackles)

Newcomers: Reggie Wilkerson, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 163 overall prospect, No. 15 athlete. Enrolled in January); Kennar Johnson, Jr. (No. 90 prospect on ESPN Junior College 100, No. 4 safety. Expected to enroll this summer); Shaq Wiggins, Fr. (No. 39 overall, No. 6 CB. Expected to enroll this summer); Brendan Langley, Fr. (No. 227 overall, No. 24 athlete. Expected to enroll this summer.)

Key storyline: After losing 2012 seniors Sanders Commings and Branden Smith, the Bulldogs must determine who will start at the cornerback position opposite Swann and who can contribute at nickelback when they bring an extra defensive back onto the field. Bowman started a game in Commings’ absence early last season, but otherwise the group lacks much college experience. Dawson made a push for a starting job before missing the end of spring with a hamstring injury. But the race will truly begin in August once the Bulldogs’ other cornerback signees are on campus.

Breakout candidate: Dawson picked off three passes in the Bulldogs’ first two spring scrimmages but missed the G-Day game with the hamstring injury. He might have the inside track on a starting job, but let’s see what Wilkerson -- an early enrollee who made progress this spring -- Wiggins and the other newcomers can do. The Bulldogs likely will rely on at least a couple of inexperienced players in the cornerback rotation this fall.

Reviewing 2012: Commings and Smith were longtime starters and played most of the key snaps at corner alongside Swann. However, Swann was probably the breakout player in the secondary, generating a number of key turnovers and leading the team with four interceptions. He was essentially the rookie in that bunch and now must play the reverse role a year later.

Projecting 2013: Swann is Georgia’s only returning starter in the secondary, so his leadership will be essential as the Bulldogs rebuild. We believe Dawson -- whom two scouting services rated as the top overall prospect in Tennessee in 2012 -- will play a big role and probably start, but the rest is conjecture at this point. Bowman and Wilkerson could figure heavily into position coach Scott Lakatos’ plans, too, and Wiggins -- Georgia’s highest-rated 2013 signee -- will be a player to watch in August as the coaches develop their plans. Cornerback is a major question mark entering the season, but Lakatos predicted he would have at least five players ready to go by the time the Bulldogs visit Clemson for the Aug. 31 opener.