ATHENS -- Now was about the time that Aaron Davis was supposed to have returned to obscurity, another forgotten spring sensation whose purpose -- motivating the scholarship players -- had been fulfilled.
And indeed, Davis is no longer projected to start at cornerback, as he was after spring practice.
He’ll be at safety, as it turns out.
“Aaron is a guy that can help us on the back end, walk-on or not,” senior cornerback Damian Swann said.
Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who also coaches the secondary, hasn’t officially named a starting lineup yet. But all indications are that Davis, a redshirt freshman, has continued to make a strong impression this preseason and is a big part of the plans.
For instance, when senior linebacker Amarlo Herrera was asked Thursday for a player who has impressed him this preseason, he named Davis.
“He’s just smart,” Herrera said. “He knows everything. And he can ball, to be a walk-on. No offense to walk-ons.”
Yes, he’s a walk-on, but apparently not for reasons of ability. By now, Davis’ story is well-known. He had interest from some SEC and ACC programs after his sophomore year in high school at Luella in Locust Grove. But Davis tore his ACL before his junior season of high school, then another before his senior year, returning in time for just one game as a senior.
And that game was at receiver. So if Davis does indeed take the field Saturday against Clemson, it will not only be his college debut, but the first time he has played defense in a real game in four years.
“I think I’ll be fine,” Davis said. “As long as I prepare, stick to what I’ve been doing, do what coach says, study my playbook, game plan and all that, I think I’ll be fine.”
That attitude and his studiousness are what endeared Davis to his new coach. Pruitt hadn’t recruited any of the defensive backs he coached this past spring, so he had no predisposed notions, and Davis stood out.
What Pruitt saw was a player with decent size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds), athletic ability and a good grasp of fundamentals.
“Two ACLs in high school. So no one really knew who he was coming out,” head coach Mark Richt said. “My guess is if he had stayed healthy all through high school, people would have known who he was; he would have been a relatively sought-after guy in recruiting. He’s got pretty good skills.”
“If anybody’s earning a scholarship in the fall after camp, I think Aaron will be the one to get one,” junior linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “It’s up to big daddy Richt. But some of us on defense feel like he’s worked hard, put in the effort, and -- I mean, not knocking anybody -- but he plays like he’s on scholarship. He doesn’t show no difference.”
Swann said Davis doesn’t make many “wow” plays in practice and scrimmages but is good at tackling in space and gets his assignments right. That was something that was missing last year in Georgia’s secondary.
It’s also helpful to remind himself that he hasn’t actually played a game yet. But with each day that goes by, it becomes more likely that Davis will be out there against Clemson.
It’s an amazing leap from where Davis was before spring practice.
“I have a couple buddies back home who I’ve kept in contact with. I went back home in May, spoke to my coach, talked about it. No one seemed to be surprised,” Davis said. “Everybody knows me pretty well. I’ve worked hard. It’s something I’ve been wanting a long time, and having to sit out really killed me. I really pushed and pushed so I could be here.”