ATHENS – One of Georgia’s best tacklers, judging by the first game and the word of teammates, is also one of the smallest.
Malkom Parrish is listed at 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds. He plays cornerback, which is supposed to be about running and batting down passes. When you make tackles, it’s often at the end of a completed pass, which isn’t good.
But last Saturday, in his first college start, Parrish made six tackles, and they were good ones: Two on rushes for no gain, two on 1-yard passes, one on a pass that lost a yard. Only one play was for a first-down completion, and that was just eight yards.
“I don’t say I like to hit people. But I don’t mind,” Parrish said, grinning.
At least Parrish is standing out now, as a sophomore. Last year he felt buried.
Parrish was Georgia’s highest-rated defensive back recruit. But he sat for much of the 2014 season, watching as a lower-rated freshman recruit, Dominick Sanders, emerged as a dependable starter.
It was frustrating, as Parrish confided in one of his roommates, star tailback Nick Chubb.
“I’ve been with it through it all. I saw him when he wasn’t playing at all. He was talking about how he wasn’t very happy because he wasn’t playing,” Chubb said. “Now he’s a starter and doing good things for us.”
Parrish started at the boundary corner (closest to sideline) and that’s the spot that tends to get more run plays. That’s why he’s there. (It was a good arrangement in the opener, as field corner Aaron Davis nabbed the game’s only interception.
That doesn’t mean Parrish won’t be athletic enough to make plays in the open field. He played quarterback at Brooks County High School, where he rushed for 24 touchdowns and passed for 18 more as a senior.
He also played safety in high school, which meant more downhill running and hitting. When he arrived at Georgia, ticketed for cornerback, secondary coach and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had to work on his tackling form.
“I started from pretty much scratch,” Parrish said.
So what did Pruitt say last Saturday?
“Good tackle,” Parrish said, leaving it at that.
Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, when asked what it’s like going up against Parrish in practice, answered: “Physical.”
“He prepares me every week for press coverage, that’s for sure,” Mitchell said.
Don’t quite go assuming Parrish will end up among the team’s top tacklers. Future opponents will be bigger and faster than those at Louisiana-Monroe. He could line up against highly-recruited, highly-physical receivers at South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Even this week’s opponent, Vanderbilt, has a 6-foot-4 receiver in Kris Kentera.
But Parrish is used to this by now.
“I like to feel like I’m the biggest guy on the field,” he said. “So it never bothers me.”