ATHENS – Aaron Davis spent this summer getting ready to play one of two positions on Georgia’s defense: Safety or nickel back. And then two weeks ago Malkom Parrish, the team’s best cornerback, went down at practice with a foot injury.
Before the next day’s practice, Davis was informed of a change in plans: Go to cornerback.
“No reaction at all,” Davis said, smiling. “It’s part of my job to be ready, and step up into any position that they ask me to play. I pride myself on being versatile.”
It wasn’t much of a stretch for Davis, for started at cornerback for most of his freshman and sophomore years. That was perhaps the easiest decision Georgia coaches had to make post-Parrish injury.
The hardest ones haven’t been revealed yet.
J.R. Reed, the transfer from Tulsa who sat out last season, went from safety to nickel back, but it’s not clear if he will start there Saturday against Appalachian State. Richard LeCounte, the true freshman who enrolled in January, was at first-team safety, but it’s also not certain if he’ll start.
Either way, it seems likely there will be at least two players who are essentially SEC rookies in the starting lineup in Georgia’s secondary. And more could play.
While Parrish hasn’t been officially ruled out for Saturday’s game, it seems unlikely, and his status for the Notre Dame trip next week is also in doubt. Head coach Kirby Smart gave a two-to-four week timetable when he confirmed Parrish’s injury, so the minimum time would be returning this week.
“We are trying to get him back for this game, and the starting secondary will probably be determined throughout the week based on that and a couple of other guys who are in good position battles,” Smart said. “So, it will be close, probably a game-time decision at some of those spots in the secondary.”
What’s certain is that senior Dominick Sanders will be at safety, just as he’s been since the beginning of his freshman year, and junior Deandre Baker will be back starting at the right cornerback spot.
It also looks like Davis will be at the left spot. (That’s how Georgia tends to handle it, rather than boundary or field corners.)
Appalachian State was 105th nationally in passing offense, throwing for 179 yards per game. But the Mountaineers were a run-first team that only tried 25.7 passes per game, which was 107th nationally. Quarterback Taylor Lamb leads an offense that employs run-pass options and can tuck and run himself.
“He can take the ball, pull it and make plays,” Smart said of Lamb. “Every game you see he has made yards with his legs, whether that is by scramble or that is by design runs – he does a great job on both of those things.”
In fact, where Parrish’s injury may loom largest is against the quarterback run, as Parrish is easily Georgia’s best tackling defense back.
Georgia could put sophomore Tyrique McGhee at nickel back and move Reed back to safety. Or even flip-flop McGhee and Davis, with Davis playing the nickel after all.
Either way, the inexperience in Georgia secondary is a concern, with Smart saying last week that the gap between the first and second-teamers is extensive. True freshmen, not just LeCounte, are heavily involved in the two-deep.
Then again, four years ago Davis started in Georgia’s opener as a redshirt freshman, and Sanders as a true freshman, and Georgia beat Clemson. So Davis thinks the young guys can do it.
“They haven’t played in a game, but they’ve seen SEC competition since the spring,” he said. “That definitely prepares them to the best they can until they get in a game.”
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