Where Did the Time Go?

ATHENS - The typical reaction for college football players who arrive at this time of year – with their final season of eligibility staring them in the face – is, "Where did the time go?"

That's not Vance Cuff's reaction. The 5-foot-11, 177-pound cornerback from Colquitt County says that too much of his last three years has crept by and a frustrating pace.

"I can still sit down and remember, ‘Hey, it has been a while that I've been here," he said. "I feel like it's been slow because I haven't been giving back to the program as much as I should have, and that's all on me."

Cuff has played in 31 games as a Bulldog, starting one of those and amassing 40 tackles and two pass breakups. His best season was his junior year, when he had 21 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.

None of those numbers are very pleasing for Cuff, and he plans to make up for it in his senior season.

"I just feel like if I could have been out there playing a little more (the time would have gone by faster)," he said. "I feel like I've just been waiting for this moment right here. I've been waiting for this moment since I first got here."

He's been thinking that way since time ran out on the Independence Bowl in December.

"I thought about the opportunity after the fourth quarter of Texas A&M," he said. "With Prince (Miller) leaving, somebody had to take that spot. I think about it every day, every night. There is not a night that goes by that I don't think about it."

With Brandon Boykin considered the a surefire starter at one cornerback spot, there remains one up for grabs headed into the 2010 season, and Cuff aims to make it his. He was listed as the other number one corner coming out of spring practice.

To do that, he figures, he has to rededicate himself to the game and to his team.

"This is the same Georgia team that I grew up as a kid watching, and I'm in a position to play for them," he said. "Those guys got there playing hard, so you have to work hard if you want to be a starter for the Georgia Bulldogs. You have to act like it, and you have to have the work ethic and the playing ability, too."

Cuff's renewed commitment started in the weight room, he said.

"I'm really not a big-time weight room guy," he said. "I've been picking that up a whole lot. I turned that around 360 degrees, so that's going to help out. I need to work on my hip flexibility and my strength. I'm always going to be a guy that needs to work on my strength and weight."

The difference in Cuff has been apparent to veterans in the program.

"I wasn't here in the past so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I know some of the coaches who were around in the past have said he's been a little bit more of a leader, he's been a little more vocal," first-year secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. "He's been great in the meeting room. I think it's important to him."

"We have a few guys who have some talent, and he's played a lot, too, so he's got some snaps under his belt, and he's got a good skill set. He's got a chance to be pretty good."

That was the though in 2007, when Cuff was recruited out of Colquitt County High School, where he was a SuperPrep All-American and Scout.com's #30 cornerback in the nation. Cuff made most of his impact in high school on offense, where he caught 35 passes for 457 yards and five touchdowns as a senior. He also turned the heads of college recruiters when he placed fifth in the state in the 100-meter dash.

During spring practice, Cuff saw some of his experience advantage wiped out because the new defensive staff brought with it new terminology and new schemes, putting the seniors and younger players on more even fitting. However, he dismissed that as an excuse.

"Ball is ball," Cuff said. "The thing is, you just have to see what Coach Martinez called it and what Coach Lakatos calls it. It's still the same thing, and as soon as you link the two, you are back to playing ball again."

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