If the return of Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo to the Georgia defense is still supposed to be some cryptic secret, it’s right up there with the release of the new iPhone as one of the worst-kept secrets of the year. They will play against Tennessee, and they will start as they’ve prepared to do since preseason camp opened. With these two elite players back on the field, how will it affect the defense we’ve seen since Buffalo, and how will the end of their suspensions grant Georgia the return of a third starter?
Ogletree’s return is clear enough. Plug him back in at ILB, and you have Herrera, Gilliard, and Robinson available to rotate in or start at the other ILB spot or even help at OLB if the situation requires. Regardless, those positions are more or less settled and now that much more deep.
The return of Rambo will have a potentially bigger impact on the composition of the defense. Sanders Commings has played in the past two games after serving his own two-game suspension. Commings, though, has played at safety, filling in for Rambo. Safety wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar position for Commings. He cross-trained between cornerback and safety in the spring and preseason of 2011. But when it came down to it, Commings earned the starting job at cornerback opposite Boykin and remained at the position for the entire 2011 season. The return of Rambo allows Georgia the flexibility to move Commings back to cornerback, his preferred position, where he’s an established starter.
Since Commings returned against FAU, Georgia’s nickel package has had three of the five defensive backs with less than a year of significant game experience at their position. Swann, a sophomore, played on special teams and in a reserve role as a true freshman in 2011. Mitchell was exclusively a wide receiver as a true freshman. Commings was a converted cornerback on a temp job at safety. With Rambo back in the lineup and Commings back to his usual position, the Dawgs go from only two of five defensive backs (again, in a nickel look) with significant experience to four out of five.
Commings moving back to cornerback also allows the coaches more options with Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell is coming along on defense, but he hasn’t made himself a clear choice ahead of Smith or Swann. Though Mitchell will still have a big role on defense, Georgia will likely use Commings, Smith, and Swann as the primary cornerbacks. That means more opportunities for Mitchell to work with the offense and an increased chance of seeing him for more than a play or two at receiver where he was prolific as a true freshman. It’s a minor point, but a modified role on defense might also have a small impact on Mitchell’s phyisical and mental readiness to field punts.