One of Georgia's most experienced groups in 2016 figures to be the secondary. But just because some veterans will be back, it doesn’t mean each returning starter will resume his role from the previous season.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said he’s opening up the secondary spots are up for grabs, regardless of who started in a unit that ranked No. 1 in pass defense a year ago.
"We’re going to challenge those guys in the secondary to compete out there," Smart said. "The guys that have been around and played a lot of snaps, they have no guarantee of keeping those snaps because there are some talented guys behind them and we’re going to let them play. We’ll keep it simple for them and let them go."
The starting secondary that ended the 2015 season – Malkom Parrish, Aaron Davis, Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders – will all be back. Cornerbacks Rico McGraw and Juwuan Briscoe also return after getting game experience at their position.
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With a new head coach, Mauger noted that the veterans need to hone in to what the staff expects them to do if they’re to keep the momentum rolling.
"It’s buying in," Mauger said. "I feel like if we all buy in to the process and focus on the little things we all have to get better at, it’ll be just like old times."
The Bulldogs held teams to only 156.5 yards per game through the air last season. The statistics may have been skewed, however, due to Georgia playing a few option-based teams toward the end of the year.
Having seen film from the previous season, Smart knows that he’ll have to re-evaluate everyone during the spring to find out which guys will be the best fit for his scheme. If that means players such as Deandre Baker, Chad Clay and Jarvis Wilson will get chances to beat out some of the older players, then Smart appears fine with that.
"I’m looking for great competition because there’s some young talent in the secondary that may be as talented or more talented than a guy ahead of them when it comes to jumping, running fast, but maybe they don’t have as much experience," Smart said. "There’s great competition there. We told them nobody’s job is safe on defense or offense. This is going to be a totally competitive environment where every position is up for competition. If you don’t compete every day then you’ll be moved. We want to create that competition. I think competition breeds a little more success."