ATHENS, Ga. – The word “challenge” has been regularly used by Kirby Smart since he took over as Georgia’s coach in December, and his latest challenge is for junior safety Dominick Sanders. Smart wants Sanders to break one of his records.
As a defensive back at Georgia from 1995-98, Smart had 13 interceptions. That’s third-most in program history. Sanders has nine interceptions in two seasons, and Sanders has been tasked with passing Smart’s career mark.
"He had a lot of interceptions," Sanders said. "He joked one day and was like 'I want you to have more interceptions than I do.' But I'm not focused on that."
The career record at Georgia is 16, jointly held by Jake Scott and Bacarri Rambo.
Sanders had an incredible run of 10 interceptions in four games as a high school senior in 2013, helping to fuel Tucker (Ga.) High's run to the Class 5A final. He says that playoff run taught him a lot about his abilities.
"During the season I didn't get a lot because I was expecting to just run, look at the quarterback and get the ball," Sanders said. "But those four playoff games, I sat down with my coach (Bryan Lamar), and he actually explained how it should be done and why I wasn't getting picks, and what needs to be done in the back end. … And then I had 10 interceptions in four playoff games."
Sanders has become one of the best safeties in the SEC and was named a preseason second-team All-SEC pick by league coaches.
That's not bad for a player who was three-star prospect and barely considered a top-75 player in Georgia in the 2014 recruiting class. He had only a handful of offers coming out of high school, though Arkansas and Missouri were two other SEC schools that liked what they saw.
Former Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was big believer in Sanders' abilities. Pruitt also was Georgia's secondary coach and Sanders started all 13 games as a true freshman in 2014. Sanders started 12 of 13 games last season; he missed a start against Florida because of a targeting call in a win over Missouri.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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