Byrd trying to lock down starting spot

ATHENS – Coming out of North Augusta two years ago CJ Byrd was a nationally-ranked safety prospect – a can't miss.

Now Byrd has his chance to shine in the limelight after spending the last two seasons as a backup safety who excelled on special teams.

"C.J. really came on last year," said Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. "I expect him to know more about our defense than he has in the past."

Byrd is listed and is lining up as the Bulldogs' number-one free safety ahead of Donavan Baldwin. With that listing, Byrd is expected to do greater things this spring and fall, according to Martinez.

"I expect him to be more productive and experienced. He has to be productive in our scheme. We are looking forward to him because he's a great athlete. To see what he's going to do is going to be exciting," Martinez said.

Head coach Mark Richt said he still has some questions about the safety spot. He wants to know how that position will shake out after spring is over with.

"We have to get some answers there," Richt said. "Kelin will be the front runner for one of those positions there. It will be interested to see how C.J. gets himself in position to be a starter. We have a lot of guys who have a chance to make it there."

Richt is alluding to a talented group of backups lead by Baldwin, Reshad Jones and Quintin Banks. That group will challenge Johnson and Byrd for playing time, but getting past those two will be a fight.

Still, Byrd's future is ahead of him. His career stats, 16 total tackles, 12 of which were solos, don't show his potential, Johnson says.

"CJ is so physical and quick," said his secondary mate. "He's explosive when he hits. I don't see us losing anything because CJ has been ready to play for some time. I'm glad that he is blossoming. I'm excited to play next to him this spring. There are a lot of big names out there ready to blossom, and C.J. is one of them."

One of them for sure – Byrd is one to watch.

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