Locked and Loaded

ATHENS - Only eleven Bulldogs, between both offense and defense, have started all seven games this season. Only one of those plays in the secondary. And only one of those is a freshman.

Dominick Sanders has earned his position as a consistent starter in the Georgia secondary with a combination of work ethic and opportunity.

“You just see him every play after play after play, hustle, get to the ball, strike,” said head coach Mark Richt. “I think what coach Pruitt likes about him is how he goes about his business every day, and if he does make a mistake, he’s making it full speed, and he’s not making it because he’s not focusing.”

Sanders, a consensus three-star athlete out of Tucker High School, signed with Georgia three years after his brother, Chris Sanders inked the same commitment. Dominick’s choice came after a whirlwind recruiting year, receiving offers from numerous Division-I schools.

But ultimately it was defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt who hooked the former Central Florida commit on Georgia.

Sanders’ immediate role in the Pruitt-crafted defense hasn’t surprised Tucker High School head coach Bryan Lamar, who said that he expected him to play during his freshman year. While he feels that the Tucker program contributed to his development for this role, Lamar emphasized that Sanders came into the right opportunity.

“It’s a matter of needs,” Lamar said. “It comes to depth at the position and preparation.”

Lamar continued by pointing out the success of other freshmen, like tailback Nick Chubb, who have come into the spotlight from opportunities of their own.

Even as a true freshman, Sanders has proven a necessary constant among an ever-changing secondary. The unit took a large mid-season personnel hit when it lost Shaquille Jones (dismissal), Shattle Fenteng (injury), Sheldon Dawson (left the team) and Rico Johnson (medically disqualified). On top of that, J.J. Green and Brendan Langley have shuffled across both sides of the ball, contributing to lineup inconsistencies.

But for those who have endured the changes, the expectations are beginning to increase.

“Pruitt has us locked and loaded back there,” Sanders said. “Every week we perform it gets better back there.”

Both of the Sanders brothers have a week 9 bye. His brother, who now plays at Baylor, will enjoy Saturday to recover from the Bear’s first loss of the season, a 41-27 rout by West Virginia. Meanwhile, Sanders will be resting up before the 2014 edition of the Georgia-Florida rivalry, which he claims to know very little about.

“I don’t feel like one game is bigger than the other. I feel like every game is the same,” Sanders said. “We’re going to go out there and perform.”

Sanders is humble about his own abilities and accomplishments, but he has no problem talking up teammate Damian Swann.

Lamar said: “[Sanders] said to me ‘I ask Swann what to do every play. He knows everything.’”

Swann may not know everything, but, as the self-proclaimed “old guy on the team” who is tied for second in interceptions (3) in the SEC, he serves as a valuable adviser for the freshman. The senior cornerback came to Georgia in the same recruiting class as Sanders’ brother and is the most veteran member of the secondary.

“Once I found out Dominick was still going to come here after [Chris’s] situation, it was a no brainer for me to take him in,” Swann said.

Sanders looks to both Swann and his brother for advice, regarding football and life.

“They know I’m a freshman. There’s a lot going on, you know,” Sanders said. “[They say] ‘stay humble, continue making plays and doing what you have to do in that secondary.’”

Lamar said: “He’s got extreme desire to be really, really good.”

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