Dawg DBs dependable?

The Georgia Bulldogs have won three of the last four Southeastern Conference Eastern Division titles. They have beaten Tennessee five of the past six years, including three times in a row at Neyland Stadium.

Big Orange fans have reason for hope, however. The Bulldogs' weakest link this fall coincides with the Volunteers' greatest strength … the secondary. Whereas the Vols return all four starting defensive backs from 2005, the Dawgs must replace three starters who earned All-SEC recognition in '05 and were drafted by NFL teams – safety Greg Blue, cornerbacks Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter.

Blue made some All-America teams after leading all Georgia tacklers last fall with 96 stops. Jennings added 56, along with four interceptions. Minter was the team's lock-down corner.

"It's tough to replace those guys," head coach Mark Richt conceded at the recent SEC Media Days.

The only returning starter is free safety Tra Battle, a 5-11, 176-pound senior who recorded 71 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last fall. Paul Oliver, a 6-0, 205-pound junior, is a lock to earn one of the corner spots. After that, things get really fuzzy.

"I feel very confident that Paul Oliver will be our boundary corner," Richt said. "Tra Battle is the returning starter at safety but the other two slots I'm not sure of."

Outside of Oliver and Battle, Georgia's secondary is going to be very, very young.

True freshmen Prince Miller and Asher Allen figure prominently in the battle for the cornerback spot opposite Oliver. Miller is a 5-8, 185-pounder from Duncan, S.C. Allen is a 5-10, 180-pounder from Tucker, Ga. Also competing for corner jobs are redshirt freshman Bryan Evans (5-11, 173) and sophomore Ramarcus Brown (5-11, 180).

Despite the immaturity at corner, Richt is more concerned about the safety positions.

"At corner, I think we'll be fine," he said. "At safety, I have a little bit more of a question mark as to ‘Are we really ready to play the level of ball that we've had?'"

Probably not. Georgia's last three strong safeties – Sean Jones, Thomas Davis and Blue – earned All-America recognition.

The battle to succeed Blue features junior Kelin Johnson (6-1, 192), sophomore C.J. Byrd (6-2, 186), redshirt freshmen Antavioius Coates (6-4, 200) and Donovan Baldwin (6-2, 193).

All of this uncertainty in the secondary creates a bit of concern for Richt. For the other five SEC East coaches it creates a bit of hope.


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