Ready or not, Georgia will have to rely on incoming freshmen in the secondary out of the gates against Clemson beyond starting safety Tray Matthews.
The good news, at least according to junior receiver Chris Conley, is that two new kids on the block at cornerback are holding their own so far in summer passing drills.
“One guy that really jumps out at me, two guys, Brendan Langley and also Shaq Wiggins,” Conley said. “Two really scrappy guys. Hard-nosed football players, fearless. They’ll go up against anybody. We saw that from the first day.”
Conley called the freshmen group as a whole “super athletic, very athletic. They’re not really missing any steps when it comes to training. They’re not having a huge adjustment when it comes to their bodies. They are in great shape, they run really well and they have really good size. A couple of them need to gain weight, but they’re very athletic. What they lack in game experience I think they make up for in being advanced in their athleticism.”
Langley, from Kell, and Wiggins, from Sandy Creek, will have a chance to get that game experience since sophomore safety/nickel back Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended for the opener and freshman cornerback Reggie Wilkerson, who was poised to be in the secondary rotation, is lost for the season with a knee injury.
Georgia lists Langley as 6-foot-1 and 181 pounds and Wiggins at 5-10 and 165.
“You’ve got to remember that they’re still freshmen so they still have moments when they have lapses in their judgment and the play-call, but I think they’re learning very fast,” Conley said.
Cornerback Damian Swann, linebacker Amarlo Herrera and safeties Connor Norman and Corey Moore have taken the freshmen in the secondary under their wing, he said.
The development of Langley could determine whether Swann needs to again play the star nickel position.
“They’re throwing them in the fire early,” Conley said. “The first couple of days they were getting burned, but they’re actually starting to make plays now and getting more confident.”
Harvey-Clemons is suspended after an incident involving marijuana in a campus dorm room.
That re-ignited the message about players not getting in trouble in the lead-up to the Clemson game.
“I’m just trying to teach these young guys just do the right thing,” senior end Garrison Smith said. “I’m just trying to push, not even for football, but just for character as a man, just don’t get yourself in trouble because later on down the road, all these issues you had are going to come back up. Even if it’s just for getting a job when you’re done playing football. Just make the right decisions and just surround yourself with good people. Your friends back at home, they might make the wrong decisions, they might use drugs, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing.”
Conley was asked how equipped the freshmen defensive backs are to being able to help.
“I don’t think it’s a question of how equipped they are,” he said. “We know they’re going to have to play. …The ball’s in their court. We know they’re hungry and we know that they want it, but now it’s going to be what they do with it.”
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