ATHENS — At this point, Jeremy Pruitt has got to be thinking “what next?”
Georgia’s first-year defensive coordinator and secondary coach found himself dealing with some more unexpected attrition on Thursday when he learned from team doctors that freshman Rico Johnson has been medically disqualified due to a neurological condition. Johnson had played in all four of the Bulldogs’ games as a backup cornerback and was showing great promise before a congenital spinal issue was discovered this week via medical imaging examinations.
Johnson will be able to remain on scholarship at Georgia and complete his education via the NCAA’s medical disqualification if it’s finally determined that he should never play again. Earlier this week, junior Sheldon Dawson quit the team, allegedly over a lack of playing time. And last week, the decision was made for Shattle Fenteng to undergo shoulder surgery and seek a medical redshirt for the season.
So add those names to what was already a lengthy list of departed defensive backs. Safety Tray Matthews (dismissed), safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (dismissed), cornerback Shaq Wiggins (transferred) and safety Shaquille Fluker (transferred) have all left the program since last season.
That’s left an already-struggling area of the defense perilously thin. At corner, the Bulldogs have strong corners Damian Swann and Malkom Parrish, boundary corners Aaron Davis and Devin Bowman, safeties Corey Moore, Quincy Mauger, J.J. Green and Tramel Terry, and utility DBs, Dominick Sanders, Reggie Wilkerson, Kennar Johnson and Shaq Jones. Senior walkon Lucas Redd is already in the two-deep at free safety and the Bulldogs feature Tristan Askew and several other walkons who could now be asked to contribute.
Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked Wednesday night, before the news about Johnson had surfaced, what he thought about the progress of the secondary.
“They’re getting better,” he said. “I’m hearing a few more ‘good jobs’ out there than before. It’s not an epidemic, but it’s better.”