When you think of the Georgia Bulldogs' secondary, several names are likely to come to mind—Brandon Boykin, Nick Williams, Branden Smith, and Vance Cuff, to name a few. However, unless you have been living under a rock, the name Derek Owens has likely found its way into a conversation or two lately as well.
Both Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos have been impressed with what they have seen from him so far this summer, and in light of Branden Smith's "academic issues" and the relative lack of depth his absence would have created, Owens began to step up his efforts even more in hopes of finding healthy playing time this season.
A Jacksonville, FL native, Owens was a member of the 2010 signing class and, amidst the overall disappointment exuded by fans with the quality of its signees, he was likely lost in the shuffle of bigger named players like Alec Ogletree, T.J. Stripling, and Jakar Hamilton.
However, despite his relative anonymity, Owens is a true talent with a lot of untapped potential. He stayed on campus over the summer so that he could study the playbook and get better prepared for the coming season. He has shown nothing but dedication to learning all that he can about his position and how he can be a better player at the SEC level.
None of this has been lost on either head coach Mark Richt or his defensive coaches who have heaped nothing but praise upon the young man as of late.
In the way of skills, Owens played both defensive back and wide receiver in high school. He doesn't have world-class speed, but he has above-average instincts and great hands. He also breaks to the ball well—a trait that will excite Bulldog fans who saw one too many bad angles taken by the secondary last year.
Furthermore, as a standout two-way player for Andrew Jackson High School, Owens averaged 39.6 yards per punt return—mostly due to his elusiveness. That could come in handy on special teams despite his lack of track speed.
Again, what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in instincts and overall field vision.
He's a quality player who truly wants to find his place on the football field sooner rather than later, and he might get his wish.
Owens isn't expected to play as anything more than a reserve this year—Vance Cuff still has the inside track on starting opposite Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith will be equally hard to keep off the field, but he will be an important cog for the Bulldogs this season.
Coach Richt has already made it clear that many guys will get a shot to play early because he would like to keep legs fresh.
Owens has proven that he has the drive and the skills to play a significant role at Georgia in 2010, all he needs now is the opportunity.