Post-spring position analysis: Secondary is least of Dogs’ concerns

Dominick Sanders is a potential All-SEC and All-America candidate for Georgia at free safety.

ATHENS – If there is an area of strength anywhere on Georgia’s team, it’s in the secondary, and nothing that happened during spring workouts changed that perception.

The Bulldogs return every starter from the back end of the defense but still cranked up the competition in the spring under new defensive coordinator and backfield coach Mel Tucker. Defensive backs interviewed in the spring made it clear that nobody was given any assurances, and that they were having to prove themselves independently of their film and stats.

In the end, everybody stayed healthy and there weren’t any major shakeups. But the coaching staff is adamant that nothing is yet set in stone and the competition will continue, especially after a couple more freshmen arrive this summer.

Each week, DawgNation will be reviewing the spring developments at each position group and looking ahead toward preseason camp. First off is the secondary.

Here’s how it breaks down for now:

FREE SAFETY

  • Starter: Dominick Sanders, Jr.
  • Backup: Jarvis Wilson, So.
  • Others: Kirby Choates, So.; Rashad Roundtree, So.; Jonah Guinn, Sr.
  • On the way: None.
  • The skinny: As long as he remains healthy, Sanders is the backbone of Georgia’s secondary and a budding star in the SEC. The junior from Tucker already has nine interceptions in his career and 11 pass break-ups. He’ll take every snap he’s physically able to. When he needs a blow, Wilson is a capable backup. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Wilson has more of the traditional physical attributes of the position he is preparing to eventually take over.

STRONG SAFETY

  • Starter: Quincy Mauger, Sr.
  • Backup: Rashad Roundtree, So.
  • Others: Kirby Choates, So.
  • On the way: None
  • The skinny: Ever since he arrived from Kell (Marietta) as the lower-profile of two DB signees from that school — with since-transferred cornerback Brendan Langley being the other — Mauger has quietly entrenched himself as a starting safety. He has played in all 39 of Georgia’s games since showing up and started 25 of those. Last year he led all defensive backs with 58 tackles and, while he had none last year, he has recorded five career interceptions. He and Sanders give the Bulldogs one of the best deep-thirds in the SEC.

BOUNDARY CORNER

  • Starter: Juwuan Briscoe, Soph.
  • Backup: Aaron Davis, Jr.
  • Others: Deandre Baker, So.; Shattle Fenteng, Sr.; Avery McNeely, Jr.; Tim Hill, Sr.; Otamere Enadeghe (RFr.)
  • On the way: Mecole Hardman, Fr.; Tyrique McGee, Fr.
  • The skinny: This is the most intense competition of the secondary and is bound to continue well into preseason camp. Davis, the former walk-on, is the returning starter and, in fact, has started in 19 of the 25 games he has played. But Briscoe brings a little more speed and play-making ability to the position. A former 4-star prospect from Maryland, Briscoe actually starred on the offensive side of the ball in high school and has exceptional ball skills. Meanwhile, Davis’ high-aptitude and versatility make him the ideal “puddy” player. That is, he is also adept at playing the safety and star positions and is the ideal sixth DB to be used in dime packages. And don’t count out the 5-star Hardman shaking things up here. If he can learn the system, his skills are reportedly off the charts.

FIELD CORNER

  • Starter: Malkom Parrish, So.
  • Backup: Deandre Baker, So.
  • Others: Shattle Fenteng, Sr.; Avery McNeely, Jr.; Tim Hill, Sr.; Otamere Enadeghe (RFr.)
  • On the way: Mecole Hardman, Fr.; Tyrique McGee, Fr.
  • The skinny: Parrish essentially locked down this spot with his play last season, but further tightened his grip this spring. The 5-10, 188-pounder is the best the Bulldogs have at reading and reacting as well as coming up to stuff quick hitches, runs and screens in the flat. He has to improve on deep coverage but otherwise is another potential all-star in the secondary. Again, Hardman’s future may be at this spot, so look for him to get work here.

STAR

  • Starter: Rico McGraw, So.
  • Backup: Reggie Wilkerson, Jr.
  • Others: Aaron Davis, Sr.; Shattle Fenteng, Sr.; Kirby Choates, So.
  • On the way Mecole Hardman, Fr.; Tyrique McGee, Fr.
  • The skinny: McGraw appears to have tightened his grip on this all-important position. In the age of spread offenses, this fifth defensive back is on the field better than 80 percent of the time. McGraw, a former 4-star cornerback prospect out of Nashville, started five games for the Bulldogs last year, but they did not open in the nickel formation the last four. So he’s extremely experienced, and also has the versatility and speed to play corner. Wilkerson continues to push for playing time and makes this one of the Bulldogs’ strongest positions.

Next up: Linebackers.

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