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Friday, April 26, 2013
Post-spring position review: S

By David Ching

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

Returning players/stats: Connor Norman, Jr. (Two starts. 18 tackles); Corey Moore, Jr. (One start. 14 tackles, one tackle for a loss); Marc Deas, Jr. (One tackle, one blocked punt); Josh Harvey-Clemons, So. (14 tackles, one TFL, one pass breakup);

Tray Matthews
Some speculation points to early enrollee Tray Matthews making the 2013 season opener's starting lineup.
Newcomers: Tray Matthews, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 129 overall prospect, No. 10 safety. Enrolled in January); Quincy Mauger, Fr. (No. 42 S. Enrolled in January); Shaq Fluker, Jr. (No. 36 prospect on ESPN’s Junior College 100, No. 2 S. Expected to enroll this summer); Paris Bostick, Fr. (No. 55 S. Expected to enroll this summer)

Key storyline: Without longtime starters Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams in the mix, Georgia is practically starting over at safety. The cupboard will be far from bare, but how quickly can less-experienced players become reliable performers at the back end of the Bulldogs’ defense? Harvey-Clemons and Matthews seemed to establish themselves as the starters during spring practice, with Norman and Moore splitting reps at strong safety when Harvey-Clemons shifted to nickelback. But a newcomer -- we’ll be keeping an eye on Fluker in August -- could alter that rotation. Position coach Scott Lakatos still has plenty of evaluating to do before anything is set in stone.

Breakout candidate: Matthews generated more buzz than anyone this spring by laying the wood to several receivers. The early enrollee obviously has the physicality and smarts to play immediately, and at this point it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the starting lineup for the Aug. 31 opener against Clemson.

Reviewing 2012: Rambo missed the first four games on suspension and didn’t quite return to his All-America form from 2011, when he led the SEC with eight interceptions. Nonetheless, he and Williams formed one of the conference’s better safety duos and the Bulldogs will miss their leadership and playmaking skills. They combined for 171 tackles and eight takeaways last season, so the new players in the safety rotation have a high standard to try to meet.

Projecting 2013: There is reason for Georgia fans to be excited about this group’s potential -- Harvey-Clemons and Matthews both appear to be stars in the making -- but also reason for concern. Facing an explosive offense like Clemson’s in the opener with two first-time starters at safety is obviously not ideal. We believe the young safeties will fulfill their potential eventually. The quicker they do it, the more deadly Georgia’s defense can become.