ATHENS, Ga. — There’s one vacant starting spot on Georgia’s defense, and a week into spring practice there’s a favorite.
But a couple young guys are right there too.
Tyrique McGhee, a rising sophomore, would be the starting nickel back (otherwise known as star) if a decision were made right now. Of course it won’t be, as there are three-plus more weeks of spring practice, plus the preseason. Freshmen Deangelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte are also in the running.
“We think in those scrimmages it will reveal itself who that guy is,” Bulldogs football coach Kirby Smart said after Tuesday’s practice.
McGhee played in every game last year, mostly on special teams. He also saw time at cornerback, where he was poised to play if a starter got injured. The Peach County High School product is practicing at both star and corner, because he would be first in line to play corner is one of the starters (Deandre Baker and Malkom Parrish right now) had to leave the game.
While McGhee offers up that experience, Smart likes Gibbs’ size. Gibbs is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and has 3 inches and almost 20 pounds on McGhee. LeCounte (5-11, 180) is also on the small side.
Maurice Smith, who excelled in the star position last season, came in at 6-foot and 195 pounds.
Smart explained why he likes the idea of somebody with a similar body type — Gibbs — at the position.
“You’re out there playing on (tight end) Charlie Woerner and he comes to block you, do you want a 160-pounder or do you want a 205-pound guy? It’s pretty obvious that we’ve got to have a pretty big guy,” Smart said. “Deangelo is a guy that we know has the ability. Can he sustain, can he run, can he do all the things he needs to do. There’s an argument to say that guy takes every rep at that position and that becomes his home base and that guy becomes like Mo. But we’re not ready to commit all that to him because we think he’s a good football player who might be able to play other positions.”
The competition at the spot may be one of the overlooked critical areas on Georgia’s team, judging by the importance the coaches put in it.
“That’s a really important spot in your defense, because it’s like an anchor,” Smart said. “I put this rock here. Mo was just steady. He didn’t play much anywhere else because he just played there. So we’re trying to develop and figure out who those people are.”