“But we hope to get them out here on the practice field,” the junior cornerback said.
Cornerbacks Bruce Thornton and Decory Bryant and standout safety Sean Jones all are gone, so the last line of Georgia’s vaunted defense will be as young and inexperienced as it’s been during the Mark Richt era.
“We kind of feel like the secondary is going to get targeted,” said safety Thomas Davis, the Bulldogs’ security blanket in the secondary.
Jennings, with his seven starts last year and 10 overall, is by far the No. 3 Bulldogs’ most experienced cornerback. Junior DeMario Minter, who has started only one game in his career, will start opposite Jennings. Last season, the Bulldogs led the SEC by giving up just 174.5 yards per game through the air, so the bar has been set high.
“They do have a lot of pressure on them,” said wide receiver Bryan McClendon, “but I don’t think they’re going to let anybody down.”
At safety, Greg Blue will take the place of Sean Jones. Blue rivals Davis as the team’s top hitter but must prove he can be as reliable on his assignments as Jones was.
With two weeks left before the first game, Georgia’s coaches are encouraged by what they’ve seen.
“There are some definite bright spots,” Coach Mark Richt said.
“That’s good to see here, but, will you see that in the pressure of the ballgame?,” defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder wonders. “Until they handle that, you still have to have a big question mark on them.”
Secondary coach Willie Martinez said he doesn’t expect to settle on his top backups at cornerback until the season has started.
“We have to see how guys react on Saturdays,” he said.
Right now, redshirt freshman Paul Oliver is working with the first-team defense while Jennings rests a hamstring injury. Freshmen Mikey Henderson and Thomas Flowers are performing very similarly to Oliver, Martinez said.
“There’s not one that’s really shot out,” he said. “They are all real improved from last year.”
Mary Persons graduate Tra Battle is the Bulldogs’ third safety, and the fourth spot there is still up for grabs. Walk-on Drew Williams and true freshmen Kelin Johnson and Antonio Sims are options, Richt said.
No matter how the depth chart shapes up, plenty of players will get a chance to prove people wrong.
“I like it when people doubt us,” Minter said. “When we step up and show everybody what we can do, all those mouths will shut up.”