Damian Swann has started more games for Georgia ‚Äî 28 in his career ‚Äî than all but one player on the Bulldogs‚Äô current roster.
That is 12 more than the rest of the entire secondary combined following an offseason of player attrition.
After a subpar 2013 season ‚Äî for both Swann and the Bulldogs secondary ‚Äî the senior from Atlanta isn‚Äôt looking back.
‚ÄúMy mindset is to leave the past in the past,‚Äù Swann said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve got a new coach. I‚Äôve got new teammates. It‚Äôs just a new start. I think that‚Äôs how everybody‚Äôs going to treat it. We‚Äôre all here for the same thing. We all want to win. I think with the attitude that the guys have now, I think we‚Äôre going to do pretty well this year.‚Äù
That ‚Äúnew start‚Äù couldn‚Äôt have come at a better time for Swann after he regressed as a junior on a Georgia defense that struggled mightily on the back end.
He looked like an NFL early entry candidate after a sophomore season in which he led the Bulldogs with four interceptions, had two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
He found himself trailing a receiver in coverage on too many pass plays as a junior on a defense where communication issues and big-play breakdowns cost the Bulldogs.
Enter Jeremy Pruitt, who coached the secondary and ran the defense at Florida State, where he won a national championship.
‚ÄúWho wouldn‚Äôt want to play for Pruitt?,‚Äù Swann said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs done it before.‚Äù
The player and coach seem to be a good match so far.
Pruitt, speaking earlier this week, named Swann as the only player so far in the secondary playing ‚Äúthe way it‚Äôs supposed to be played in the secondary.‚Äù
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Swann has played cornerback and the star nickel back position and Pruitt said he‚Äôs capable of playing anywhere in the secondary.
‚ÄúDamian‚Äôs very smart,‚Äù Pruitt said. ‚ÄúFootball comes easy to him. He‚Äôs got a very high IQ for football. He‚Äôs very instinctive. He‚Äôs got good ball skills. He‚Äôs got good initial quickness, can change direction. He‚Äôs got a chance to be a solid player.‚Äù
Solid may not be a high bar, but it would probably be a step up from last year.
Swann keeps it all in perspective.
‚ÄúI played a lot of college football,‚Äù Swann said. ‚ÄúA lot of guys don‚Äôt get the opportunity to play on this level or to even go Division I. Regardless of some of the things that have happened in my career, I‚Äôm always satisfied, always happy with how far I‚Äôve come. I‚Äôm just a small kid from Atlanta. I don‚Äôt see a lot of people make it out from where I‚Äôm from. Just to be able to go out on my own and pursue an education, play college football before 100,000 people every week, that‚Äôs a blessing. That‚Äôs something I‚Äôll never forget.‚Äù
Swann was voted second-team preseason All-SEC by the media and is leading the way for a young bunch of defensive backs.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs like a big brother to everybody,‚Äù sophomore safety Quincy Mauger said.
‚ÄúHe knows the defense in and out. I feel like he‚Äôs going to have an explosive year this year,‚Äù receiver Blake Tibbs said. ‚ÄúComing off the year where people feel like he had a down year, I think this year is going to be more than everyone expects it to be. It‚Äôs going to be his breakout year or just a year that everybody expected him to have last year.‚Äù
‚ÄúI think Swann can be an All-American,‚Äù said sophomore J.J. Green, a nickel back/safety. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs smart. He‚Äôs real smart at corner. He‚Äôs been playing it for so long. He knows the defense, he knows what coach Pruitt wants, it‚Äôs just all on Swann on what he wants to do.‚Äù