Entering 2013 as a junior, Damian Swann was Georgia’s top NFL prospect as a cornerback coming off a strong sophomore campaign in 2012.  Entering 2014 as the ‘Dawgs lone senior, however, Swann is looking to rewrite his reputation and simply get back to the level of productivity he enjoyed in 2012.

Swann has registered 28 career starts, 12 more than any other secondary player combined.  There’s no doubt Swann can play; he led the team in interceptions in 2012 as a sophomore on a defense that starred future-NFL draft picks Sanders Cummings, Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree.  However, with the departed veterans leaving gaping holes in the secondary, Swann struggled on a defense that was laden with communication issues and gave up too many big plays.

Though the front seven experienced marginal success rushing the passer last season, corners repeatedly got beat in one-on-one coverage and safeties were lost in space.

After former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s exit for Louisville, Mark Richt hired Jeremy Pruitt, coming off a national championship with Florida State where he coached the secondary and ran one of the nation’s top defenses.

For the secondary to be impactful under Pruitt, Swann will have to improve technically.  As a young player, he relied on his innate athletic ability to defend and that worked with other veteran guys around him.  But with the departure of Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons, and with Georgia being thin at some spots, Swann has to play fundamentally sound cornerback.  The ‘Dawgs are likely to have a freshman at safety in Dominick Sanders, and with Swann sure to be covering the opposing team’s number one option, Swann has to lockdown in order to prevent some of the big-play breakdowns the team experienced last year.

Having seen him in the spring and so far in fall camp, Pruitt told the Athens-Banner Herald Swann can play anywhere in the secondary.  “He’s very instinctive.  He’s got good ball skills.”

Swann’s athleticism is no question.  With Cummings, a lockdown cover corner, opposite him in ’12, an opportunistic Swann was freed up to make plays and did so tallying 53 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  In Pruitt’s scheme, Swann should be able to open it up and play, especially with the front seven the Bulldogs are projected to have.  The defensive line and linebackers, led by Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd, should give headaches to plenty of SEC quarterbacks.

For a defense that lacked leadership in 2013, Swann must provide that element to an inexperienced secondary that could feature a redshirt freshman cornerback in Aaron Davis, freshman safety Dominick Sanders and sophomore safety J.J. Green.

This time last year, many expected Swann’s junior campaign could be his last donning the red and black, but even after a disappointing season, he’s still primed for a huge year.

The SEC East is there for the taking.  Who knows, with Swann returning to form, the 2014 Bulldog defense could be completely different, even with some familiar faces.  And what a good thing that could be for Georgia fans and their championship hopes.