Cornerback Bruce Thornton is starting for the third straight year. Free
safety Sean Jones and corner Decory Bryant have a full season of starts
under their belts. Thomas Davis is back at the safety position he opened
at began last year.
That is as good as any secondary in the Southeastern Conference, and
that foursome alone would have little trouble improving Georgia's pass
defense numbers (sixth in the SEC in efficiency defense, 14 touchdown
But they'd better be in shape.
The reason Davis was moved back to safety from linebacker? An injury to
starter Kentrell Curry followed by an injury to backup Greg Blue.
Thornton's backup is Kenny Bailey, a former tailback. Bryant's backup is
Mike Gilliam, a former tailback. Jones' backup is true freshman Tra
Battle, who is not even listed in the media guide. And Davis' backup is
a redshirt freshman named Olaolu Sanni-Osomo.
All that, plus Tim Jennings and Demario Minter are suspended for the
first two games, and B.J. Fields will sit for the opener.
The four starters have the knowledge and ability, but perhaps the most
important thing is that they are in the best shape of their careers.
With so little experience backing them up early in the season, it is
doubtful defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder and secondary coach
Willie Martinez aren't looking forward to giving them too many breathers.
"We know what we have to do," said Thornton, a senior from LaGrange.
know we have to practice hard, because we'll have a whole lot of snaps."
Blue is out until at least October. Curry will miss at least the opener
at Clemson, and probably the home game against Middle Tennessee State.
"Everything's going good," said Curry of his rehabilitation. "I'm
sure exactly when I'll be back. We just have to wait and see how it feels."
Curry, an all-SEC candidate, is trying to pitch in with some advice. He
had 69 tackles and four interceptions while starting every game last season.
"I try to help," said Curry, a first-team all-state player at Stephens
County in northeast Georgia. "I talk to 'em all, young and old. The
young guys have to come in and learn the system, but they look good."
The younger Bulldogs like Thomas Flowers, Mikey Henderson and Paul Oliver have been plagued by cramps. And losing players the caliber of
Blue and Curry is an obvious problem, for it's hard to develop depth and
get better with key players sitting.
But he can't worry much about who is not on the field.
"I'm just trying to get the kids prepared every day and not dwell on it
too much," Martinez said. "Guys getting injured is part of it. We've
some guys that are out and those guys that have stepped in have to do
their job now."
Bailey has the most experience of the second line of defensive backs,
having moved their before spring practice in 2002. He played in all 14
games last year. Gilliam was redshirted last year as a tailback, then
transferred to defense before spring practice.
"He's going to have a role this year," Thornton said of Gilliam.
it's so different from offense, especially playing running back."
Davis may be the biggest key early on.
The talented redshirt freshman from Randolph-Clay was moved to
linebacker during the 2002 season and was a standout. The Bulldogs have
depth problems at linebacker, but are so thin in the secondary right now
that Davis was moved back to fill Curry's spot.
Davis is ready to return to linebacker, as soon as Curry is healthy again.
"I'm there as long as they need me," said Davis, who is at his
linebacker weight of about 220. "But I'll be ready to get back."
Despite the lack of depth, Georgia will have a physical secondary. Davis
is a hitter, and Derrick Holloway has moved to safety from linebacker.
Those two weigh about 220 pounds, while Jones and Sanni-Osomo are near 210.
Martinez is counting on those newcomers to pick things up quickly.
"We don't think we're complicated," he said. "You always gotta be
careful with what you're putting in. Obviously, you don't want a bunch
of players out there that are trying to think. They're just reacting to
what they see. That's still our goal."
Thornton has no concerns.
"The good thing about it is we're on the same page," he said.
eliminated a lot of the mistakes we made last year."
With all the new faces, the Bulldogs hope they don't have to make them
all over again..
Secondary depth chart:
Bruce Thornton, 5-11, 200, sr.
Kenny Bailey, 5-11, 192, sr.
Thomas Davis, 6-1, 220, RS soph.
Olaolu Sanni-Osomo, 6-1, 211, RS fr.
Sean Jones, 6-2, 209, jr.
Tra Battle, 5-11, 170, fr.
Derrick Holloway, 6-4, 223, jr.
Decory Bryant, 5-11, 187, sr.
Mike Gilliam, 5-7, 180, RS soph.