When coach Mark Richt met with reporters prior to Thursday afternoon‚Äôs practice, he fielded multiple open-ended questions about who is vying for frontline jobs in Georgia‚Äôs secondary.
Six players who have never taken a defensive snap for the Bulldogs drew mention by Richt, including true freshmen Rico Johnson (at cornerback), Malkom Parrish (at the star nickel back) and Dominick Sanders (at safety), junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng (at cornerback) and redshirt freshman Aaron Davis (at safety).
‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs getting better every day,‚Äù said sophomore star nickel back J.J. Green, who played tailback last season. ‚ÄúThe calls are coming easier, knowing what the formation they‚Äôre in ‚Ä¶is coming easier than day one.‚Äù
Having to rely on new faces was expected given the offseason departures of safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons (dismissals) and cornerback Shaq Wiggins (transfer).
‚ÄúI think the guys are competing well,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI think they‚Äôre learning good techniques. Matter of fact, I thought yesterday evening was probably the best defensive practice of the camp. A lot of good pressure by the front seven and some good coverage throughout most of practice. I think the defense is making good progress right now.‚Äù
Johnson is a bit of a surprise to be vying for a starting job. He was signed out of Georgia Prep Sports Academy as a wide receiver but moved to cornerback this summer.
‚ÄúRico we think is a real tremendous wide receiver prospect and probably would develop into a really good one one day,‚Äù Richt said, ‚Äúbut the need at the cornerback position and his experience playing at cornerback in the past we felt like it was probably a quicker path to become relevant as far as playing snaps. We made that move because we think he can help us win.‚Äù
Green said defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt ‚Äúis still having tryouts to see who‚Äôs going to play in the secondary the first game.‚Äù
Said defensive lineman Ray Drew: ‚ÄúI saw him today ‚Äî he hired and fired the same guy about four or five times.‚Äù