The University of Georgia has been getting lots of high praise nationally
about being among the elite teams in college football next season, even being
named an early #1 by some, but there are plenty of question marks on the
The offensive line continues to be short handed due to injury after injury.
The defensive line has been depleted by injuries itself, and the defensive backfield has
lost much of its veteran leadership.
"(Losing safeties Sean Jones and Kentrell Curry, and cornerbacks DeCory Bryant and Bruce Thornton) is gonna
hurt a lot," rising junior Mike Gilliam said. "That was our leaders
right there. I wish them all the best, but life goes on, we've got to do what we
got to do now; its time for us to step up"
Tallahassee native relied a lot upon those veterans last year in his transition
from the offensive backfield to defense. A Florida Class 6-A first team all
state running back his senior season after putting up 2,683 yards and 35 touchdowns,
Gilliam left football factory Lincoln High School as their career rushing
He came to Athens and received sparse playing time as a true freshman
when injuries decimated the running back spot and forced him into action. The
developments of his freshman season were disheartening to Gilliam, but he
persevered and has found a home in Willie Martinez's secondary.
"(The spring) has been going well," Gilliam said. "I've been
trying to get better everyday."
He played a bit of
corner in high school, but not much, so there was definitely a transition to be
made last year.
"There were some growing pains, a lot
of growing pains, but everyday I get better," Gilliam said. "Everyday
I learn something new. Once I learn everything I can learn, I'll be good to go.
I got the knowledge I just have to work on the technique. Technique is my
While he was learning his new position
on defense, he also had to take on another new role on special teams.
"I liked it," Gilliam said of playing gunner on punt team. "It
was the first time I did anything like that. It was fun. It felt like, if he
wasn't fair catching it, he was disrespecting me, so I was trying to take a head
off if I could."
As if all the adjustments last fall
weren't enough, Gilliam has to adjust to being one of the veteran leaders at his
position this fall.
"It's different," he said.
"I'm not used to being one of the older guys, but I'm just trying to help
lead where I can. It's weird just because I was asking all the questions a year
ago. But, I just try to do what I can, if I can help (the younger guys), help
them; if I can't, point them to coach (Martinez)."
what about those three redshirt freshman, Thomas Flowers, Paul Oliver, and Mike Henderson?
"I think the sky is the limit with
them," Gilliam said. "They are all fast; they've got good size; if
they learn it, we're going to have some great corners around here in a year or
One of the things that would help Georgia have
some great corners this year will be the wide receivers they go up against everyday in
practice. Fred Gibson is among the preseason candidates for All-American at
let alone a certain first team preseason All-SEC choice. And opposite him is a
6'1, 200 pound speed burner who is among the strongest, fastest, and most
explosive in the nation by the name of Reggie Brown.
"(There aren't) too many people as fast as Reggie, so that's the speed
aspect," said Gilliam about his daily competition, also citing rising
junior Bryan McClendon as an impressive route runner. "And (there's) not
too many people as good at going deep like Fred, that's Mr. Deep Ball himself,
so between the two of them we get good looks."
the things Georgia's coaching staff has shown is it's willingness to put in
whoever they feel can get the job done. Tim Jennings and DeMario inter have been
working at #1 CB, with Gilliam getting plenty of reps at nickel back behind
Jennings. Like last year, when the staff sends in their nickel group, Jennings
moves inside from his corner spot to nickel back, with the 3rd corner replacing
"I'm not even focusing on (my role for
this fall)," Gilliam said. "I'm just trying to do what I can do, and
help the team, I figure (the role asked of him) will take care of itself."
He added, "I think this summer is going to be real big
for all of us (in the defensive backfield)."
thing the Georgia defensive staff has shown to be effective at is replacing the
people in its system without much drop off in production.
"I love our system," Gilliam said. "It's a real good system. I
love what we do. It's not really (anything special). Package wise, it's kind of
what that (the individual) personnel can do. But it's pretty easy to be a corner
in our system. The biggest thing as a corner in our system is technique.
Technique, that's what it's all about."