Year of redemption

Jimmy Legree entered the 2012 season looking to rebound from a sub-par year in 2011 that saw him lose his starting job at safety just two games into the season. Now back at cornerback, Legree is looking to redeem himself. Through the first two games of the season he is well on his way.

For Jimmy Legree, the 2012 season is all about redemption. In 2011 Legree was the ultimate team player, agreeing to move from the cornerback position he had been playing since high school to safety, a position he had very little experience at prior to 2011. The result was potentially devastating for Legree's career.

After DeVonte Holloman was moved from a safety spot to spur to back up Antonio Allen and D.J. Swearinger was moved over to replace Holloman's spot, the free safety position was wide open after Brison Williams broke his wrist early in fall camp. With depth at cornerback, Legree was finding himself buried in the depth chart so when the coaches approached him about the move he gladly accepted the challenge.

"I enjoyed playing safety but it really wasn't for me," Legree said Tuesday. "I was just trying to help my team out the best that I could."

Legree held the position for two weeks before being replaced. Holloman was moved back to his original strong safety spot and Swearinger moved over to play the spot Legree held. Legree would play sparingly the remainder of the year in a back-up role, but did not get a start.

Legree's 2011 season could most known by a play in the Georgia game that is a prime example of premature celebration. Nearing the end of the third quarter with Georgia holding a 20-14 lead, the Bulldogs had the ball in Carolina territory and a first down. Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell could not get together on a handoff and the ball bounced forward into the hands of Stephon Gilmore. Before anyone had a chance to react Gilmore was gone the other way, weaving his way through traffic. Legree came flying by Gilmore at the 15-yard line with an arm in the air celebrating the touchdown. Only problem is that Gilmore was tackled from behind by Michael Bennett, the player that Legree could have easily blocked if he were not so busy celebrating.

"No more of that," Legree said with a laugh. "That was last year, this is a new guy here. No more of that."

After the season, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward approached Legree about moving back to corner to back up Akeem Auguste. Once again, Legree was eager to accept the offer.

"It's like going back home," Legree said. "There's no place like home. Safety was a challenge and I didn't handle it too well, but I'm just glad to be back at cornerback right now."

Prior to the season Akeem Auguste injured his groin and had to have minor surgery on it, giving Legree another opportunity to get the third start of his career. After battling with Ahmad Christian for the starting role, Legree made his debut at cornerback against Vanderbilt in the season-opener. The results were favorable for Legree, who finished third on the team with five tackles and broke up a pass.

Last week against ECU, Legree began to make a name for himself. Legree had five more tackles and broke up two more passes and had his biggest moment reversed on review only to make up for it two plays later. Early in the third quarter Legree stripped ECU's Andrew Bodenheimer and fell on it for his first career forced fumble and fumble recovery. After reviewing the play the referees properly overturned the call and awarded the ball back to the Pirates. Two plays later, Legree read the eyes of ECU quarterback Rio Johnson and jumped the route of Justin Hardy. He picked the pass off and ran it 34 yards for the touchdown, his first career interception and touchdown.

"I thought (my eyes) were going to pop out of my head," Legree said. "Me and the safety, Brison Williams, was talking before the snap and I told him to get over the top and have my back because I was jumping anything. The guy ran a short route so I jumped it and got the pick six."

As Legree began running the other way, the thought might have crossed the minds of some of his teammates and coaches of what happened last year against Georgia, but Legree wasn't going to let that happen.

"I'm a smarter player than that," Legree said. "I know if you celebrate before you cross the end zone then they're going to take it back. I wasn't going to let them take the touchdown away, too."

Legree's performance Saturday was a coming out party for the junior who had just 12 career tackles entering the 2012 season.

"Yeah it was," a confident Legree said. "I had to showcase my skills a little bit and get the fans hyped."

Now leading the team in both tackles and passes broken up with 12 and three, respectively, with one tackle for a loss and the interception and touchdown thrown in the mix, the world is beginning to find out who Jimmy Legree is.

"I don't want to live in the hype really," Legree said. "I just want to stay focused, stay humble and just keep pushing forward.


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