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Mark Webb is a junior defensive back for the Georgia Bulldogs.

How Mark Webb’s ‘rough’ start helped prepare him to be a key piece of the Georgia defense

When Mark Webb got to Georgia, he arrived with the intentions to play wide receiver. The 4-star prospect from Warminster, Pa., arrived as one of four wide receiver signees in the 2017 signing class.

But Webb did not last long at wide receiver. Just a few weeks into his freshman season, Webb was moved to the defensive side of the ball.

“It’s not necessarily permanent,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said at the time. “But he’s done a really good job. I really think he’s got a bright future there. We’ll sit down and revisit it when the time comes to see what he really wants to do.”

Webb ended up sticking as a defensive back. He spent most of his time on special teams as a freshman before working his way onto to the field in certain situations at the end of last season.

When speaking with the media this week, Webb was very honest with his assessment of his early days at Georgia and how he’s grown since the 2017 season.

“It was rough from the start,” Webb said. “But it’s getting smoother as time went on as you understand the journey that I’m on and you see what Coach Smart had planned for me. It was rough, but it’s going the right place.”

This fall, Webb is expected to be a regular contributor in the Georgia secondary. When the Bulldogs open their season on Aug. 31, there’s a very good chance Webb is lining up with Richard LeCounte, J.R. Reed and the rest of Georgia’s starting defensive backs. And he’ll likely be doing so at Georgia’s STAR position.

The STAR position is tough to define. It’s somewhat of a cross between safety and cornerback. As more and more college football teams play with more three and four wide receiver sets, teams need more defensive backs on the field to cover those pass catchers.

But going with simply more cornerbacks might make it easier for an opposing team to run the ball. That’s why a player in the STAR position needs to be a better tackler than your average corner. But they will also likely need to be better in man coverage than your typical safety.

Think of the STAR position as a Swiss Army Knife. It’s hard to label it as one thing because it can perform a variety of functions. That’s the role Webb will be playing for the Georgia defense this year.

“You have to be physical because at STAR you’ll be going against tight ends sometimes, you’ve got to be able to get off blocks on the perimeter, then then you might be going against a slot receiver like D-Rob that’s very fast and you have to be able to cover,” Reed said.

And Webb fits that mold perfectly. His time at wide receiver prepared him for some of the coverage aspects of the position. But one thing both Webb and Reed agree on is that Webb’s physical nature helps him stand out at the STAR position.

“You have to have a star, someone that can be physical, play the run and cover, and that’s very rare to find,” Reed said. “I think Mark Webb has that talent,”

Webb first made a name for himself last season in the Auburn game, when he racked up a career-high 6 tackles. He did so playing the MONEY position, which is similar to the STAR position in terms of responsibilities. The MONEY position tends to play closer to the line of scrimmage and is employed when Georgia uses six defensive backs.

The junior defensive back estimated that STAR position is on the field about 70 percent of the time. And while he might not be a traditional starter, that would only be determined by the offensive personnel on the field.

There’s a very good chance that Webb ends up playing a lot more this season on the defensive side of the ball than some of his fellow 2017 wide receivers. Matt Landers and Trey Blount are both fighting for playing time this season. It would be a pretty big surprise if either ended up starting against Vanderbilt.

That isn’t going to be the case for Webb. And it looks like Smart’s early prediction about Webb’s future as a defensive back might end up paying off during the 2019 season.

Mark Webb discusses playing the STAR position

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