ATHENS — Georgia seemingly has only one open starting spot in its secondary, and the favorite right now is a sophomore. Based on the early buzz, however, three freshmen could end up being heavily involved.
Deangelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte, who are almost veterans at this point after going through spring practice, are among those in the mix. Fellow freshman Ameer Speed wasn’t as highly recruited and just got here. But he appears to have made a quick and positive impression on Mel Tucker, Georgia’s secondary coach and defensive coordinator.
“He has a rare size, which is a good thing,” Tucker said of Speed, who’s listed at 6-foot-3. “He has good length. He’s got really good balance and ball control. He has good athletic ability, runs well and he loves football. He’s got the talent that we like to work with and he’s working really hard at his craft right now. I’m really fired up about his upside.”
Four starters return to the secondary: Safeties Dominick Sanders and Aaron Davis and cornerbacks Malkom Parrish and Deandre Baker. The one open spot is the star (nickel back), vacated by Maurice Smith. The leading candidates there include Gibbs, but also junior Jarvis Wilson and Davis. If Davis won the nickel spot, that would open up safety, where sophomore J.R. Reed is running first-team right now.
But LeCounte is also figuring in the mix at safety. And while sophomore Tyrique McGhee appears to be the top reserve cornerback right now — ready to replace Parrish or Baker if needed — Speed also could see playing time.
Georgia plans to use its nickel and dime defenses extensively this year, which means a lot of potential playing time for young members of the secondary.
“We have seven freshman so we have to teach those guys what to do and develop them as a unit,” Tucker said. “We tell them ‘no child left behind.’ We have to make sure everyone knows where to go by the time that game starts.”