Swann growing up fast as leader in Georgia secondary

MACON — Damian Swann donned a pair of black Louis Vutton loafers with his khaki slacks, navy suit jacket and red striped tie as he sat in the rotunda of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon.

His mustache freshly trimmed, his chin hair long, but not scraggly. He was put together like a grown man and carried himself similarly.

The rising junior cornerback and leader of the secondary fielded questions about the one-game suspension of rising sophomore starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and Georgia’s inexperienced defense.

“With the situation with Josh, that’s something that we know about, so it’s going to be time for us to get guys ready, get guys in position for when camp comes so they already have a jump on it,” Swann said at the annual Pigskin Preview, a gathering of head coaches from colleges across the state.

Swann isn’t the oldest player in Georgia’s secondary, but he has the most starts. He is one of two players on the secondary’s depth chart who has started a game at all.

Surrounded by youth and inexperience, Swann has to help construct a safety net that will help stop the Tajh Boyds and Connor Shaws of college football.

He has to play older than he is.

“We still got a lot of younger guys that still has to step us and mature faster than what they thought because of the situation that we’ve been put in,” said Swann, who led the Bulldogs with four interceptions last season.

Two safeties and a cornerback enrolled in January and went through their first spring practice, and four more secondary members will join the squad for summer workouts or before fall camp.

“They probably should get used to the speed of the game because it’s going to be different from high school or junior college, whoever is back there on the back end,” he said. “It’s a different feel. It’s a different game. it’s a different level.”

When Swann came into Georgia the summer before his freshman season in 2011, Brandon Boykin, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, went over the play book with the newcomer like they were studying for a final exam. 

Swann says it’s his turn to play mentor.

“I’m going to teach it to them because I’m going to be a team player,” he said.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said that though a depth chart was released after spring practice, nearly all of the spots on defense are “wide open” heading into summer workouts and fall camp.

“It generates a lot of excitement. It generates a lot of energy,” Richt said. “It also means you got a bunch of guys that haven’t done it on some of the biggest stages.”

Richt said he is aware of the new skill sets he has coming in this summer as his youngest secondary members — Tray Matthews, Quincy Maugers, Shaquille Fluker, Kennar Johnson, Reggie Wilkerson, Paris Bostick and Shaq Wiggins — get ready for their first summer and fall camp in Athens.

“Talented, excited, athletic, but inexperienced,” Richt said.

They better get adjusted quickly.

Georgia’s first five games are against Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas, LSU and Tennessee, respectively. Three of those five teams could be ranked in the preseason’s top 10.

“We just got to go and play,” Swann said.

As Swann goes through his third summer program, he’ll be looking back to check on his younger teammates, pushing them along in trying to lead the whole group forward in a hurry.

“We’re not going to have a lot of time to grow up,” Richt said.

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