There may be doom and gloom about the way Georgia’s young secondary has held up in the first half of the season, but senior safety Connor Norman tried to keep a positive outlook on things this week.
“It’s not like we’re 0-6 or 1-5, you know, we’re 4-2,” Norman said. “Those guys are getting better every week and they have confidence. They’re going to continue to work every day.”
They may have confidence, but Norman said Georgia’s defensive backs need even more.
Georgia is leaning on freshman safety Qunicy Mauger and has started freshmen Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley at cornerback on a defense giving up 259.3 yards per game through the air, 12th in the Southeastern Conference.
“We have a great line who brings pressure to the quarterback,” Mauger said, “and we’re just DBs just out trying to learn from our mistakes and get better at it.”
Junior cornerback Damian Swann, expected to be a playmaker, has had trouble in coverage, including Saturday against Missouri.
“It’s still the same Swann,” Wiggins said. “He still has that swagger about him. In practice, he’s still talking, still being that leader. He has a strong mindset. This is football. With all the criticism and the things we’re going through, it isn’t anything new. When you’re winning, everybody is going to cheer for you and when you’re losing, everybody’s going to boo you. … The DBs are still looking up to him.”
Coaches haven’t made Swann available for interviews in recent weeks.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on him just because he is the older guy out there on the defense,” Norman said.
Coach Mark Richt said last week that Swann was struggling and that continued against Missouri in the first half.
“I thought he played a really good second half,” Richt said. “He started out maybe a little rugged in the first.”
The freshmen don’t have too many experienced players to lean on.
“The thing of it is, it’s not like you’re young with a senior around you,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You’re young and there’s a young guy beside you.”
Georgia held up on the back end on first and second downs, helping the defense get sacks and incompletions, Grantham said.
“A lot of that credit goes to the players on the back end and the way they performed,” he said. “We’ve just got to work on getting it done on third down.”
Cornerback Sheldon Dawson, who’s played primarily special teams, could see defensive snaps.
“If it’s something he can do,” Grantham said, “red zone or a dime package or something like that, then we’ll do it.”