Flowers looks to be a weapon

Thomas Flowers

ATHENS — While Georgia focuses on replacing stars at quarterback, defensive end and safety, the Southeastern Conference's best punt returner is working with the Bulldogs in near anonymity.

And that's fine with Thomas Flowers. The redshirt sophomore cornerback is perfectly happy to sneak up on people again this year.

"I expect to be a weapon, but nothing is ever promised," he said. "You have to always practice as if you're competing for the job."

Georgia turned to Flowers last year in the sixth game of the season after veterans Tyson Browning and Tim Jennings struggled just to catch the ball. Flowers hit the ground running. By year's end, he led the SEC and was 12th in the nation with 15.1 yards per return.

"I see a guy who has become very confident in his ability to catch it and stick it up in there," Coach Mark Richt said.

That confidence didn't come automatically for Flowers.

"It took a while because this is one of the most pressurized positions in football, Flowers said. "You've got to be relaxed, you've got to be confident, you've have to have faith in your blockers that they are always going to make their blocks.

"And you've always got to make that first guy miss."

Flowers has experience with offensive football. As a junior at Pebblebrook High School in Austell, he tied a state record with eight touchdowns in one game. As a senior, he rushed for 1,246 yards and 19 touchdowns and had 1,625 yards of total offense.

Punt returning lets him hold onto those roots in college.

"It gives me a chance to get my hands on the ball, show my offensive skills," he said. It also has helped him get more of a look on defense.

"The confidence from punt returning carried over to the coaches," Flowers said. "The coaches are starting to have a lot more faith in me."

Flowers is backing up DeMario Minter at one cornerback spot and is the backup nickel back behind Tim Jennings. Richt noticed Flowers' defensive development this spring during a tackling drill, when Flowers shed a blocker and made an open field tackle.

"It was like, ‘Wow, where did that come from?'" Richt said.

More people may be saying that before the year is through.

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