March 13, 2012

Looking ahead: Safety

With all the angst over Georgia's depth at cornerback, the Bulldogs' secondary could have been in more dire straights had draft-eligible safeties like Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams decided to go pro.

Williams was Georgia's leading tackler in 2011 with 72 and added four interceptions, while Rambo earned All-American honors after having one of the best years by a Bulldog safety in recent memory.

His 55 tackles weren't exactly eye-popping, but the eight interceptions were, a number that not only led the SEC, but was the second-best total in the entire nation.

Rambo wants to do even better this fall.

"I want to lead the SEC, I want to lead the nation, I want to win the Jim Thorpe Award, I want to win the SEC championship," said Rambo, who along with his Bulldog teammates kick off spring practice next week.

"Winning the national championship - Coach (Mark) Richt says there's no greater feeling," Rambo said. "I want to have that feeling."

Georgia will need Rambo and Williams to stay healthy.

The pair combined to start all but two of the Bulldogs' games at safety, and would have opened all but one had Rambo not been suspended for the opener against Boise State and Williams for the first-half of the Florida game following his suspension for a hit levied the week prior against Vanderbilt.

Williams did not start the Coastal Carolina contest, either, but that's because he opened at linebacker following an injury to Christian Robinson the week before against South Carolina.

"I know a lot of people are depending on me," Rambo said. "I'm a senior, but I've got to continue to grind it and try to improve every day."

Who backs up the pair, well, that's somewhat of a question.

Sanders Commings started the two games that Williams did not, but the rising senior won't be available until Week 3 against Florida Atlantic due to his two-game suspension following his January arrest in downtown Athens for allegedly striking a female friend.

"It's something he has to live with. He's just got to keep going forward," Rambo said of Commings. "Everything happens for a reason, you've just got to learn from it and when you get back on the field make people regret that you were gone and try to do better; do the best he can do to help the team."

Rambo knows what it's like to be on Georgia's suspended list.

He had to sit out last year's opener against Boise State for a violation of team rules, but Rambo said the punishment made him stronger.

"I looked at it as a minor setback for a major comeback; that's how I saw it," Rambo said. "When I came back, I was just determined to help my team as much as I could. When his two games are up, I've just told him to come back and do as much as he can."

Look for Commings to bounce around between corner and safety when he does return.

Ditto for rising sophomore Corey Moore, who backed up at both free and strong safety last fall. But with depth questions at corner, Moore is expected to get a look or two there this spring, if anything, just to see what he can do.

Marc Deas and Connor Norman are two holdovers at safety that will compete for backup duty.

But despite the numbers crunch, Rambo prefers to focus on the positive, especially when it comes to the Bulldogs' return on defense, where nine of 11 starters are back to see if the team can better its No. 4 defensive ranking of a season ago.

"We're going to get even deeper in the playbook because we've had another year under Coach (Todd) Grantham's scheme," Rambo said. "We know a lot, but there's still stuff we can learn. But it's going to fun. There's a whole lot of excitement around here. Coach Grantham is going to have some fun with us now because we know what we're doing. He's going to be throwing stuff at us all over the place."