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Curtis Compton/AJC
Dominick Sanders (24) and Aaron Davis (35)

Could the secondary be Georgia’s most improved unit in 2017?

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday. We’re talking about the secondary, so relive your teenage angst with Brand New’s “Secondary.”

Secondary to none

I don’t have a clever intro for this so let’s just jump into the question at hand: Could the secondary be Georgia’s most improved unit in 2017?

It’s an interesting question, I think, because conventional wisdom suggests it would be difficult for the unit to claim the crown of “most improved.” The big reason why is because there are simply multiple position groups with more room for improvement. The wide receiver group could see a good bit of improvement from more experience and an improved Jacob Eason. The offensive line will have more talent than it’s had in some time, and, frankly, it isn’t hard to be better than the line was last season. The defensive line could see big gains as well. It didn’t lose a man and didn’t turn up the heat until the second half of 2016. It should see some improvement.

But Georgia’s secondary is already pretty dang good. It helped the defense to the 29th Passing S&P+ in the nation and was 30th in DB HAVOC. Far from great, but pretty good. On top of that, Maurice Smith, a steadying presence at nickel and on the defense, in general, graduated. So, even if the defense improves, it would be difficult to improve the most.

There are a few reasons I think we could see the secondary improve considerably in 2017. First is Dominick Sanders, Georgia’s best returning DB. Sanders recently revealed he played through a shoulder injury in 2016, which could help explain his precipitous drop in interceptions (6 to 3) and tackles for loss (5 to 1.5) from his sophomore to junior seasons, as well as losing about 15 return yards on average per pick. Outside of what just shows up on the stat sheet, a healthy Sanders would be in a better position to battle receivers and mix it up around the line. He’s shown the potential to be the best ballhawk in the SEC in his first three seasons. Maybe, he can put it all together next season.

Second is a more confident Aaron Davis playing with something to prove. Davis’ journey at Georgia has been fun to watch, going from an unknown walk-on to one of the reliable players on the team and a leader of the defense. And his versatility is key. He can play pretty much any position in the secondary and play it well. The flexibility will no only help coach Kirby Smart and defensive backs coach Mel Tucker craft the best secondary possible but also serve Davis well when he attempts the leap to the NFL next season.

“I want to sharpen up everything that I can, show that I can play multiple positions at a high level. Be out there and dominate guys and not just sustain,” Davis said, according to Seth Emerson of DawgNation. “I really (want to) be out there and be an impact player for the team.”

The returning corners also have tons of skill and a good bit of experience. Malkom Parrish is entering his third year as a starter, and although he’s not a shutdown guy, he can put in a good shift. Deandre Baker broke out last season and should return with all the confidence that entails. There’s also Tyrique McGhee, who has emerged as the starting nickel for the early portion of the spring.

But the wild card in determining how much the secondary will improve is the freshman, most notably the early enrollees, Deangelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte III. We don’t know what Georgia is getting in them yet, but all indications point to them being special players, potentially cornerstones for UGA’s secondary in years to come. If they can live up to the hype as freshmen, that’ll be two of the best freshmen in America, plus a group of experienced returning starters. Which would make a damn fine unit.

Listen to the Senator

I wasn’t the only one to write about the Jacob Eason vs. Jake Fromm ‘debate‘ Monday. Senator Blutarsky also had some words on it over at Get The Picture. A single paragraph beautifully sums up why Fromm won’t win the job, no matter how good his intangibles are:

All of which brings me back to the point I’ve been making about this whole Eason/Fromm deal, which is that the odds of replacing one true freshman quarterback’s season with another that will turn out significantly better seem rather long. Even if we assume for the sake of argument that Fromm’s intangibles exceed Eason’s (who, remember, should have finished last season with two game-winning touchdown throws), he’s still going to be working with the same playbook and offensive coordinator, most of the same receiving corps and another rebuilding exercise on the offensive line. Somebody needs to explain to me how that’s a recipe for success.

Cam Shepherd named SEC Freshman of the Week

Georgia baseball’s season hit a nice uptick last week, going 3-1 including a series win against Tennessee. A big reason for the success of last week was the play of Cam Shepherd, for which he was named the SEC Freshman of the Week. The shortstop went 10 for 19 in four games with 3 doubles, a triple and 4 RBI.

Shepherd and the Bulldogs will attempt to continue their hot streak Tuesday night against Clemson at Foley Field.

‘I just want a crumb’

ICYMI

Good dog

I don’t know if I’m more impressed by the dog or the idea of a spaghetti taco.