If there is one Georgia Bulldog ready for the season to start, it must be senior cornerback Damian Swann.
Swann’s sophomore campaign was one to be remembered. After playing sparingly his freshman season, Swann started all 14 games in 2012 at cornerback. The former Army All-American showed why he was highly sought after out of Atlanta’s Grady High School, leading the team with four interceptions and recording 53 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
This performance raised the eyebrows of many pundits who predicted a breakout season in 2013. Several preseason All-SEC teams and the Jim Thorpe Award watchlist included Swann’s name. Potential and skill came together in 2012 for No. 5 and the sky seemed to be the limit.
As with many stories of preseason hype, the reality never materializes and eventually becomes wishful thinking. Swann started off poorly in 2013 and seemed to worsen as the season progressed. An ominous sign came in the first game against Clemson, where Swann’s poor tackling effort resulted in a first quarter 77-yard touchdown catch and score by Sammy Watkins.
It was a one-on-one play that basically provided a blueprint of the Dawgs’ secondary woes for the next thirteen games. Watkins’ mad dash to the end zone at Swann’s expense was the catalyst for a season that saw Swann tally zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles and become a target rather than a force to be reckoned with. Announcers and fans alike were left scratching their heads over Swann’s decline from 2012. It was a season to forget.
Georgia’s fall practice is five days old and Jeremy Pruitt has cited one member of the secondary who “gets” it: Swann. Maybe the aberration of last season is sticking in Swann’s craw or maybe the lack of hype has fueled his desire to get back on top. As a member of a defense that surrendered the most points in school history and the de facto leader of a secondary that was burned continuously, Swann has everything to prove now. As a senior leader, he has no choice. Apparently, Swann’s tackling form and ability to read and react have impressed the likes of Pruitt, who is not one to hand out compliments. Could this be a sign that Swann is back?