ATHENS - Damian Swann is not only one the most hardened veteran in Georgia's secondary, going by number of games started, but he's also one of the few healthy ones. He knows the importance of cohesion and communication in the secondary, and how it could (negatively) impact Georgia against pass-happy Clemson.
Asked how much he worried it could be an issue at Clemson, Swann was fairly candid.
"You always worry about those things. You always worry about the lack of communication between those guys. Because once again, that lack of communication can give up big plays. And all it can take is one big play to cost the game," Swann said. "But at the end of the day, I think those guys took the time off to prepare very well. And still are trying to get healthy."
The injury-ravaged secondary looms as Georgia is now eight days away from the opener. Swann and senior safety Connor Norman are at least healthy, but free safety Tray Matthews has missed a lot of practice and scrimmage time with shoulder and hamstring issues. Strong safety Corey Moore is increasingly looking doubtful with a sprained knee, and strong safety Shaquille Fluker has been out sick this week. Sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson, the expected starter next to Swann, missed Wednesday's scrimmage but was off the injury report Thursday.
Whether or not Matthews, Moore and others return, there has been valuable time missed. The upshot, according to Swann, is that players are still in meetings and at parts of practice. (During the interview, an alarm went off on Swann's phone. "That means get ready for meetings," he said.")
So the key will be translating that to a minimum of communication errors once the game starts.
"That's one of the main things of being able to play in the secondary," Swann said. "You've got to be able to communicate with guys, to make sure that everybody is on the same page. Because one busted coverage can give up a big play. And that's what we're trying to minimize."
Injuries aside, the secondary will rely heavily on a couple true freshmen who, unlike Matthews and some others, didn't go through spring practice this year. But Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins have impressed Swann this preseason.
"With the camps those guys had, I believe in both of them," Swann said. "Both of them have had picks throughout camp, throughout this last month or so. And I think that was confidence-builders for them, and it was confidence-builders for the coaches, showing that these guys can play."
Of course, it's not all about the youngsters. Swann himself figures to have a tough matchup: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is an all-America candidate.
"He's fast, he runs great routes, and he's explosive when he catches the ball," Swann said. "That's the big thing, trying to keep the ball out of his hands, so he can't do damage then."
More from Swann in a story that will run in Saturday's papers, and online later on Friday.