ATHENS -- No, Shawn Williams does not see himself as the last man standing. That angle doesnt work for him.
Were just gonna have to see when that first game comes, he said. It may be a surprise, maybe well have all four starting DBs there.
Thats not very likely. Williams is the only projected starter in the secondary who is not facing suspension for the start of Georgias football season. That means he becomes an even more key player for the Bulldogs, at least for at least the first game or two.
Were obviously gonna lean on him a lot as a leader back there, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
By now, the rundown of the ills in the secondary are well-known to Georgia fans: Starting cornerback Sanders Commings is suspended the first two games, starting cornerback Branden Smith is awaiting discipline after a marijuana arrest, and starting safety Bacarri Rambo is appealing a four-game suspension for a second drug test.
If that wasnt bad enough, the secondary has had six other members leave the program since the beginning of last season.
Still, the man charged with coaching the secondary didnt sound worried Thursday.
Well be fine. Well be fine, Georgia secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. We have enough guys that know how to do more than one thing. So well be fine, barring any catastrophic rash of injuries.
But some would argue that theyve already had a catastrophic rash of other things.
I look at it like this: What would happen if a guy got injured, and you lose a guy for X amount of time? I mean youve gotta line up and play, Lakatos said. So someones gotta play. So whatever the reason is, if you have to replace people, thats part of the game.
The good news for Georgia is that in Williams, it will have a senior who will be able to lead a young secondary. He was Georgias leader in tackles last year, and arguably the heart of the defense.
Williams has built a reputation as a hard hitter who can sometimes cross the line. The SEC suspended him for the first half of one game last year, following a hit in last years Vanderbilt game.
But when he plays within the rules, Williams is among the best in the SEC.
He plays the game the way its supposed to be played, Lakatos said. And thats what you want. Its physical, hard-nosed guys that are athletes, and thats what he gives you.
Rambo earned All-American status last year, helped by his SEC-leading eight interceptions. Williams, not shy about expressing himself, said that if Rambo can be an All-American, he can get those national honors, too.
Leaving a legacy, Williams said when asked what he wants to produce from his senior season. I want to hopefully have my name and picture up in the locker room as an All-American. I want to be one of those guys.
Williams seriously considered entering the NFL draft after last season. He received a third-round grade from the draft advisory board, the same as Rambo. But every defensive player elected to return.
This defense can be great, Williams said. Im aiming for it to be the No. 1 in the country, no doubts about it.
Williams will be one of the keys to that, especially at the start of the season.
Hes up for the challenge, Grantham said. Were gonna expect big things out of him.