ATHENS - Sheldon Dawson's season hasn't started off anywhere near where expected. The sophomore cornerback was considered a starter as late as the week before the opener, but instead has played sparingly.
Freshman Brendan Langley has started each of Georgia's first two games, and it seems likely to stay that way for at least one more game. Dawson, who entered the preseason as the first-teamer, has rarely played at all.
Dawson addressed his status after Monday's practice. He was both candid and upbeat.
"I was frustrated. I was real frustrated. But to me, you've gotta keep going," he said. "Keep faith. My faith really got tested. I had long talks with people."
Former Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin was among the people who reached out to him, according to Dawson, who said the current Philadelphia Eagle second-year player told him to just hang in there.
Others have told him the same thing.
"I just had to realize it's not for me to just go out there now, because if it was I'd be out there," Dawson said. "It's just a test, and it's a test to my faith to see how strong it it. I really believe I'm able."
So why did Dawson lose his job? He doesn't remember any really rough practices, other than just being beat a couple times in practice. Dawson thinks it's more likely the minor injuries in the preseason caused him to lose ground to Langley.
Dawson is next in line at cornerback, but he hasn't been needed because of the defensive scheme: Georgia has most often employed a 4-2-5 (or nickel) formation, with the fifth defensive back actually being the star position. Leonard Floyd, normally an outside linebacker, occupied the star in the Clemson game, and then Josh Harvey-Clemons took it over against South Carolina. The Bulldogs haven't really used much of a dime package at all.
Even when Langley was struggling against the Gamecocks, getting beat for a couple touchdowns and other big plays, the coaches stuck with Langley. So what did Dawson think of that?
"Just to stay ready," Dawson said.
Then he pivoted to express support for Langley.
"He's a freshman. I'm a type of person where I don't go for excuses. But he is a freshman," Dawson said. "And sometimes you've gotta be a tough brother on him. I picked him up every time he came to the sideline, just like: 'You got it. You're out there. You're blessed. Go get it. You're gonna get picked on, it's gonna come. But what are you gonna do? Are you gonna lay there, or you gonna get up?'
"He came back, broke up a couple passes and whatnot. He was a pretty good. Langley is a great player, and a good guy to be around. He's gonna be all right."