From a costly missed tackle in the opener at Clemson to a fumbled punt last Saturday at Vanderbilt, this has not been the junior season Georgia cornerback Damian Swann envisioned.
A preseason All-Southeastern Conference second-team pick, Swann was Georgia's lone returning defensive player who started all 14 games a year ago. He was expected to provide leadership to a youthful Bulldogs secondary but has been flustered by opposing offenses as much as any of the freshmen.
"I've been struggling, and I admit to my struggling," Swann said after Saturday's 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt. "I think that comes with the nature of the game."
The 5-foot-11, 178-pounder closed last season with a rush, recording a sack and an interception in the win over Florida, seven tackles in the SEC title-game loss to Alabama and six tackles and two interceptions in the Capital Bowl win over Nebraska.
This season began with a missed tackle that sprang Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins for a 77-yard touchdown. That remained his biggest gaffe until last Saturday's fumbled punt at Georgia's 36-yard line late in the third quarter with the Bulldogs leading the Commodores 27-14.
"When you play that position, there are going to be a lot of balls thrown your way," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. "There are going to be a lot of opportunities to make plays, and if you're back there returning kicks, you've got the spotlight on you there as well.
"There has been some good and some bad, but I think he's playing hard, he's practicing hard, and I think he cares."
Swann racked up a season-high 10 tackles and a season-high two pass breakups against the Commodores, but he was defending Jonathan Krause on the left sideline when Krause made a 41-yard reception with 9:28 remaining in a 27-21 game.
"I thought the receiver got away with one on that one," Richt said, "but the official didn't see it the way I saw it."
Swann has 36 tackles and five pass breakups this season. The Bulldogs are off this week, and it is not known where he will play Nov. 2 when they resume against Florida in Jacksonville.
Against Vanderbilt, Swann played mostly the nickel position due to Josh Harvey-Clemons suffering a foot injury.
"He did have a better game," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "Actually, I thought he had a much better game. He's been working his tail off like all these other guys, and I thought there were some improvements made, but at the end of the day, you've got to do enough things to win the game, and that's what we've got to work on."
Said Swann: "I played back in the nickel spot, where I haven't been all year, and I think I made a couple of plays. I think I'm getting back into it, and I think it's going to be great from here on out."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...