MAHONE: Former Luella standout Aaron Davis and North Clayton alum Amarlo Herrera living up to expectations at UGA

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ATHENS — Four years ago when Amarlo Herrera signed with Georgia, he was part of the 2010 recruiting class that was being touted as the “Dream Team” by coach Mark Richt.

It was a collection of high school standouts that were looked upon as some of the best prospects in the state and surrounding areas. They were supposed to turn the Bulldogs into conference and national championship contenders.

During the 2012 season, Georgia played eventual champion Alabama in a thrilling SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome before a disappointing 8-5 season in 2013.

Throughout his previous three years in Athens, Herrera has lived up to the “Dream Team” hype that saw him become the Clayton News Daily Player of the Year and all-state performer. He has positioned himself to likely become a first-round NFL draft pick next spring.

But for now, Herrera is being counted on by new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in leading his defensive charge. Along with Herrera, the Bulldogs return nine starters, in addition to 16 other players that lettered last season.

Of course, Pruitt has instituted some changes and added some new wrinkles to the Bulldogs’ defense, which was previous led by Todd Grantham, who is now at Louisville.

Herrera has been consistent throughout his time in Athens. The 6-foot-2, 244-pounder has started 30 of the 41 games he’s appeared in while making 112 career stops.

Look for more of the same from Herrera, who could be a high NFL draft choice next season with a solid season. He had a chance to jump to the NFL this spring, but wanted to return for his final season.

Bulldogs fans are excited, for good reason, about the prospects of this season’s defensive unit. Pruitt has three national championship rings — one from Florida State this past season and two from a stint at powerhouse Alabama.

It’s assured that Herrera is soaking up all the knowledge that Pruitt has to offer. In Herrera’s previous three seasons, he learned under Grantham, who had previously worked in the NFL.

But Herrera is not the only player from the area that is making headlines this spring for the Bulldogs.

Fans should keep an eye on former Luella player Aaron Davis, who turned down several Division II and NAIA offers to accept a preferred walk-on opportunity at Georgia.

Not only has Davis played his way into the starting lineup this spring, he might have one of the most interesting stories to tell.

After a standout sophomore year at Luella, Davis begin to receive interest from several SEC and ACC schools. However, a torn ACL injury during spring practice going into his junior year sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

He missed his junior season, and another injury during his senior year only saw him play in one game, mostly as a wide receiver.

Considered damaged goods, the majority of the big-time schools backed off, but Davis always held the dream of playing major college football.

When Georgia offered the opportunity to walk-on, Davis jumped at it.

And it seems he made the right move.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily. On Twitter? Follow him @DerrickMahone_