UGA CB to watch: Sheldon Dawson

ATHENS, Ga. -- Sheldon Dawson appreciates the attention he has received in some corners as a potential breakout performer on Georgia’s defense this fall. But the rising sophomore cornerback is quick to point out that he hasn’t accomplished anything yet.

That’s exactly the attitude the Bulldogs’ coaching staff seemed to want to emphasize this spring with its young defense, encouraging players like Dawson to work hard this summer and earn a starting spot in the fall.

Although he didn’t play much as a freshman last fall, Dawson certainly has the ability to do it. The multi-position athlete received mixed reviews from the various recruiting services, but was actually listed as the top overall prospect in Tennessee by two of them. That athleticism showed up some last season with Dawson contributing mostly on special teams, but now that he has had time to learn his role in Georgia’s defensive scheme, his playing time should expand significantly on scrimmage downs.

As Dawson reminds us, he hasn’t locked down a starting job by any means, but a strong spring and impressive speed and coverage skills make him a player worth watching in Georgia’s secondary.

2012 review: Dawson appeared in 13 games, mostly on special teams, and won the team’s Newcomer of the Year award. He finished the season with 12 tackles, including a season-high three in the win at Missouri.

2013 preview: As a sophomore, Dawson’s role won’t be limited to special teams play. He’ll be a leading contender for a starting job when the Bulldogs open preseason camp in August, but he’ll have to fend off a number of alternative candidates including Reggie Wilkerson, Devin Bowman and Shaq Wiggins.

Spring prospectus: Dawson seemed to be helping his cause to become a starter prior to injuring his hamstring in the Bulldogs’ second spring scrimmage. He intercepted three passes in the two scrimmages, but did not participate in G-Day or the two practices afterward because of the injury. Nonetheless, Dawson got beaten in coverage a time or two and also made more than his share of plays, which could give him a leg up on the other contenders in the coaches’ estimation.

Career potential: Damian Swann needs somebody to step up and win the starting spot alongside him and Dawson took the biggest step toward doing that this spring. This might be Swann’s final season as a Bulldog, so Dawson could help ease the transition if he begins showing some leadership and performs well on the field like Swann did last fall in his first season as a starter.