Georgia returns only four starters on defense in 2010, including just one in its secondary (cornerback Brandon Boykin). However, that may not be a bad thing as the Bulldogs ranked 73rd in the nation and next-to-last in the SEC last season in pass efficiency defense.
The defensive backfield does return several players with plenty of talent, who’ll need to improve the Bulldogs’ prowess against the pass, including Vance Cuff, Bacarri Rambo, Quintin Banks, Makiri Pugh, Sanders Commings, and above all, Branden Smith.
Smith, who’ll start at the weak-side corner position, made 14 tackles last year and broke up two passes in a reserve role. The lone start he made was actually on the other side of the ball, starting at running back against Florida. It was on offense where the multi-talented, true freshman made an immediate impact for the Bulldogs.
Smith finished the 2009 campaign with 208 rushing yards (fourth-highest on the team), a whopping 12.2 yards per carry (a Georgia single-season record for players rushing for at least 150 yards), and two touchdowns. In addition, he caught two passes, was second on the team in kick returns (279 yards), and had three plays (two rushes, one kickoff return) of 48 yards or more.
Unfortunately, along with Caleb King, Smith also led the Bulldogs in fumbles lost with two. The difference between the teammates was King had 124 touches, Smith only 35.
Smith also lost a sure touchdown in the Independence Bowl against Texas A&M when it appeared he had intercepted a fourth-quarter pass and had a clear running path for the endzone. Instead, the ball bounced off his chest and fell to the ground incomplete.
Clearly, the youngster mistakenly was thinking touchdown first, making the interception second.
The last two years, the Bulldogs have landed just one five-star recruit according to Rivals—Booker T. Washington High’s Branden Smith of Atlanta. After a brilliant high school career and a promising freshman season at Georgia, it seems Smith undoubtedly has the potential to help lead an inexperienced secondary.
If the triple threat can step up his game defensively and hold onto the football as well, Smith could be a viable weapon for the Bulldogs in all three phases of the game.