Over the next 10 days, I will be releasing my list of Georgia’s Ten Most Important Players in 2012. This list will be more about which 10 players I believe will need to play a pivotal role for the Dawgs to have a stellar season rather than the overall talent of each player.
#7 John Theus is a freshman offensive tackle with loads of talent and upside. Rated a 5 star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com, he played at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. Listed at 6’6” and 292 pounds, he is an elite level talent who will surely see playing time as a freshman at UGA.
He was listed on numerous All-American teams including USA Today and Parade and he played in the Army All-American game. He is known for his toughness and his ability to pull and get into the second level, which is perfect for UGA’s new blocking schemes developed by Coach Will Friend.
Theus also had offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas, USC, and Clemson. He committed to UGA on Dawg Night on July 16, 2011 and he never wavered. We believe he will most likely play right tackle for his freshman season and likely to move to the left side as soon as he is ready. Many fellow recruitniks may remember the battle between John Theus and Jordan Jenkins at Dawg Night, I for one hope to hear of many more this fall.
As many of you know, I am predicting the Dawgs to win the National Championship. In order for that to happen, they will need very good offensive line play and good depth along the OLine. Theus will be the key piece to that puzzle and thus the reason I have him ranked as my 7th most important Dawg this season.
#8 Cornelius Washington is a DE from Hephzibah, GA. A standout from Burke Co. High School, he was the 3rd ranked weak-side defensive end by Rivals.com in the 2008 class. Washington is the type of player you want to get off the bus first, he is a massive physically gifted player.
Washington has struggled finding his niche in recent years, and he has also dealt with some personal issues that held him back in 2011. However, he has been listed at the top of the 2012 depth chart ahead of redshirt freshman Ray Drew at the defensive end position. The switch comes after playing outside linebacker for most of his career.
Washington is an intelligent football player, having earned the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll distinction for fall semester last season. His best football is yet to come. That is why he is in our ten most important players for this year. He is the starting defensive end on one of the strongest defensive lines in UGA history.
We expect huge things from Washington this year as he will be surrounded by talent, Jenkins and Geathers will always attract double teams and Abry Jones will be his opposite. Jarvis Jones coming off one edge and a myriad of freshman and sophomore phenoms, including Jordan Jenkins and T.J. Stripling, coming off the other. With all of this surrounding talent who is going to block Washington, an equally impressive football player.
#9 Branden Smith is a senior from Atlanta, Ga where he played his high school football at Washington High. He was the #1 cornerback in the country coming out of high school. He has played both offense and defense at UGA and has been a solid contributor on special teams. He is 5’11″ and weighs 176 lbs. This will be a great year for this young man.
Smith is an explosive athlete with the ability to make huge plays in all three phases of the game. Over his career, we have seen glimpses of why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. He has blazing speed (4.4) with good hips to boot. Branden will help ease the pain of losing Brandon Boykin in the return game as I look for him to be the punt returner in most punting situations. I don’t see him playing a ton on offense but using him on a reverse from time to time isn’t a bad idea.
Smith will be one of three senior starters in the secondary on a defense that returns almost everyone and was ranked #5 in the country in total defense last year. His ability to make big plays on defense and on special teams will make him a very important asset on this Georgia Bulldogs football team. Keep an eye on #1 in the secondary for the Dawgs in 2012!
#10 Damian Swann is a sophomore from Atlanta, Ga where he played his high school football at Grady High. He was a part of the Dream Team two years ago and he appeared in 11 games last season with 1 start. He is 5’11″ and weighs 178 lbs. He plays cornerback for the Dawgs and I’m extremely confident he will be a difference maker this season.
Swann has really long arms and he can match up with taller receivers. He has the ability to get from 0 to 60 very quickly. The knock I had on him coming out of high school was his lack of strength and his tackling technique. After a year in the weight room and a year with UGA coaches, I strongly believe Swann will be a huge difference maker this year for the Dawgs. Georgia has some secondary players suspended for a few games to start the season. Swann has the ability to get on the field and make a huge difference right away. If I am right about Damian, it will be hard to get him off the field the rest of the year. Folks, make sure you keep an eye on #5 this fall. He will be hard to miss! Damian Swann is my 10th most important player for the Dawgs in 2012.