Forgotten CB Talks about Role

<b>Mike Gilliam</b> has gotten lost in the shuffle the past year, and he talks about making strides in his second year in the defensive backfield.

The University of Georgia has been getting lots of high praise nationally about being among the elite teams in college football next season, even being named an early #1 by some, but there are plenty of question marks on the Bulldog roster.

The offensive line continues to be short handed due to injury after injury. The defensive line has been depleted by injuries itself, and the defensive backfield has lost much of its veteran leadership.

"(Losing safeties Sean Jones and Kentrell Curry, and cornerbacks DeCory Bryant and Bruce Thornton) is gonna hurt a lot," rising junior Mike Gilliam said. "That was our leaders right there. I wish them all the best, but life goes on, we've got to do what we got to do now; its time for us to step up"

The 5'9 Tallahassee native relied a lot upon those veterans last year in his transition from the offensive backfield to defense. A Florida Class 6-A first team all state running back his senior season after putting up 2,683 yards and 35 touchdowns, Gilliam left football factory Lincoln High School as their career rushing leader.

He came to Athens and received sparse playing time as a true freshman when injuries decimated the running back spot and forced him into action. The developments of his freshman season were disheartening to Gilliam, but he persevered and has found a home in Willie Martinez's secondary.

"(The spring) has been going well," Gilliam said. "I've been trying to get better everyday."

He played a bit of corner in high school, but not much, so there was definitely a transition to be made last year.

"There were some growing pains, a lot of growing pains, but everyday I get better," Gilliam said. "Everyday I learn something new. Once I learn everything I can learn, I'll be good to go. I got the knowledge I just have to work on the technique. Technique is my biggest thing."

While he was learning his new position on defense, he also had to take on another new role on special teams.

"I liked it," Gilliam said of playing gunner on punt team. "It was the first time I did anything like that. It was fun. It felt like, if he wasn't fair catching it, he was disrespecting me, so I was trying to take a head off if I could."

As if all the adjustments last fall weren't enough, Gilliam has to adjust to being one of the veteran leaders at his position this fall.

"It's different," he said. "I'm not used to being one of the older guys, but I'm just trying to help lead where I can. It's weird just because I was asking all the questions a year ago. But, I just try to do what I can, if I can help (the younger guys), help them; if I can't, point them to coach (Martinez)."

And what about those three redshirt freshman, Thomas Flowers, Paul Oliver, and Mike Henderson?

"I think the sky is the limit with them," Gilliam said. "They are all fast; they've got good size; if they learn it, we're going to have some great corners around here in a year or two."

One of the things that would help Georgia have some great corners this year will be the wide receivers they go up against everyday in practice. Fred Gibson is among the preseason candidates for All-American at receiver, let alone a certain first team preseason All-SEC choice. And opposite him is a 6'1, 200 pound speed burner who is among the strongest, fastest, and most explosive in the nation by the name of Reggie Brown.

"(There aren't) too many people as fast as Reggie, so that's the speed aspect," said Gilliam about his daily competition, also citing rising junior Bryan McClendon as an impressive route runner. "And (there's) not too many people as good at going deep like Fred, that's Mr. Deep Ball himself, so between the two of them we get good looks."

One of the things Georgia's coaching staff has shown is it's willingness to put in whoever they feel can get the job done. Tim Jennings and DeMario inter have been working at #1 CB, with Gilliam getting plenty of reps at nickel back behind Jennings. Like last year, when the staff sends in their nickel group, Jennings moves inside from his corner spot to nickel back, with the 3rd corner replacing him outside.

"I'm not even focusing on (my role for this fall)," Gilliam said. "I'm just trying to do what I can do, and help the team, I figure (the role asked of him) will take care of itself."

He added, "I think this summer is going to be real big for all of us (in the defensive backfield)."

Another thing the Georgia defensive staff has shown to be effective at is replacing the people in its system without much drop off in production.

"I love our system," Gilliam said. "It's a real good system. I love what we do. It's not really (anything special). Package wise, it's kind of what that (the individual) personnel can do. But it's pretty easy to be a corner in our system. The biggest thing as a corner in our system is technique. Technique, that's what it's all about."

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