2013 Defensive Preview: Cornerbacks

Dawg Post's Jonathan Branch will preview a new position group each week. We continue this week with cornerbacks.

Entering 2013, Georgia must find a way to replace two of its top three cornerbacks. Sanders Commings and Branden Smith will be preparing for the NFL draft this spring, as a new crop of corners tries to fill the shoes Smith and Commings leave behind. Commings started 35 games in his Georgia career, while Smith started 26. However, to say the Bulldogs are left inexperienced at the position would not be wholly accurate.

One of the top playmakers of the 2012 defense returns in Damian Swann. In his sophomore season, Swann started all 14 games and racked up 53 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. The Atlanta native also led the team in interceptions with four, including two in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska. After losing some serious talent on the defensive side of the ball, Georgia will count on Swann as one of its leaders on defense in 2013. In that capacity, Swann will also be tasked with bringing along a few spot-starters from last season and a gaggle of newcomers.

As for returnees, rising sophomore Sheldon Dawson and redshirt sophomore-to-be Devin Bowman will battle it out for the starting spot opposite Swann. Dawson, a hard-hitter that's tough as nails, turned heads during his true freshman season as a special teamer, racking up 12 tackles, and took home the Newcomer of the Year award at season's end. The former four-star recruit from Memphis showed signs of promise, and with a full offseason, he could supplant himself at the top of the cornerback rotation.

Bowman earned the start against Buffalo in the opener last season with Commings suspended. By game two, Malcolm Mitchell had taken a starting spot at corner, but the general consensus is that Mitchell's days as a defensive back at Georgia are over. Aside from Swann, Bowman has the most experience at the position on the Georgia roster. That experience, along with his size (he is the only corner currently on the roster that's listed over 5-foot-11), should make for an interesting position battle with Dawson over the next few months.

Pushing the returnees will be a large and talented group of incoming freshmen.

Georgia reeled in one of the top cover corners in the country in Shaq Wiggins from Sandy Creek High. Wiggins is listed at a generous 5-foot-10, but he plays like a 6-footer. He held his own against some of the top receivers during drills at the Under Armor All-American bowl practices and let those receivers know. Wiggins understands he is a smaller corner but plays with a chip on his shoulder. His competitive nature and coverage ability should have him in the discussion for early playing time as soon as he steps on campus in the summer.

Brendan Langley may have as much upside as anyone in the Bulldogs' signing class. The 6-foot-1 Kell High product will be the tallest corner on the roster when he arrives, and his length and ball skills must have Georgia coaches excited to have him in the fold. Both Langley and Wiggins should each compete for playing time as early as game one, especially at the nickel corner position.

Early enrollee Reggie Wilkerson will have a head start on his fellow freshmen after going through practices and drills on campus this spring and could find himself in the mix for that nickel position. Athlete J.J. Green, another mid-year enrollee, may get some playing time at the position in the fall, though the 5-foot-8 Green has said coaches have not solidified his future position, leaving the door open for him to play receiver or cornerback. Stay tuned for next week's breakdown, when we look at another position with holes to fill—Inside Linebacker.

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