Bulldogs Beat

Two defensive backs, two knee injuries, two long waits

ATHENS — Tramel Terry was going through drills at a recent Georgia spring practice when something he did triggered an impromptu life lesson from Jeremy Pruitt.

“Tramel, you’re great when (things) are going great. The play’s going good, and you do (things) good,” said Pruitt, Georgia’s secondary coach and defensive coordinator. “But when (things) are going bad, you don’t know what to do. The play’s going bad, and you play (badly).”

Terry listened but did not respond. Pruitt quickly moved on with the drill and the other defensive backs, including Reggie Wilkerson.

Two years ago, Terry and Wilkerson were among the top players in Georgia’s signing class, only to suffer ACL injuries. These days Terry is still trying to fight his way into the conversation for a starting spot. Wilkerson, after a strong spring, finally has cracked his way through.

It remains to be seen if Wilkerson contributes this season, but the most recent signs are encouraging, at least more than they had been. Wilkerson has worked with the first team at the star position, including during Saturday’s G-Day game.

Wilkerson didn’t have a perfect game — he was beat by speedy receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a 70-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. But otherwise, he had a solid day, capping a comeback spring.

“It’s just a blessing to come out here and do things I have done,” Wilkerson said in the locker room after G-Day. “I just came to camp ready to compete. I was hungry, and ready to compete.”

Wilkerson didn’t make excuses for the McKenzie touchdown, saying, “It was a coverage beater,” meaning he was just beat one-on-one. Wilkerson feels his strength is man coverage, but McKenzie apparently has been beating a lot of defensive backs this spring.

Terry and Wilkerson had the same injury and were both early enrollees in 2013. But otherwise their stories differ.

Terry’s ACL injury happened before he got on campus, during a high school all-star game. He joined the program as a receiver but was moved to receiver a year later, his explosiveness apparently not the same after the injury. During the past year, he has bounced between cornerback and safety, the highlight being an interception and three tackles against Troy.

Terry hasn’t been made available to the media this spring, and Pruitt has yet to meet the media either. So Pruitt’s words on the practice field, although an isolated snapshot, offer a glimpse.

Wilkerson had an impressive spring in 2013 and entered the summer as the top backup cornerback. The future seemed bright, and his playing time imminent. Then he tore his ACL during summer workouts. Most of the next year was spent in rehab, and last season he only played in one game.

There’s still a long way to go before Wilkerson earns a starting spot, or even playing time. Pruitt has a lot of options, including several recruits who arrive this summer.

But Wilkerson is now at least one of those options.

“I feel like I’m better now than I was when I came in and got hurt,” he said. “It’s just learning, learning new things and being able to take what I learn and add it to the field.”