Mark Webb can laugh about it now, but making those first tackles in a Georgia football practice definitely left a memory. And a mark.
Webb came to the program as a highly regarded wide receiver, but was switched to defense back his freshman year. He quickly found out that tackling someone with the ball is a lot different than just catching the ball.
“My first hit was against (running back) Elijah Holyfield,” Webb said. “He tried to run me over, but I made the tackle. That is how I learned to tackle. And the second one was against (tight end) Charlie Woerner on the sideline. My shoulder definitely went numb for a little bit, but it was basically my initiation.”
Webb, a junior defensive back from Philadelphia, passed those tests and has become a major contributor to the Georgia defense. He played in 13 games as a freshman, mostly on special teams, and played 14 games in 2018 and made 14 total tackles. Now he’s a starter.
Webb leads the team in tackles with 13 and had six solo stops last week in limited action against Murray State.
“I had to learn everything about defense,” Webb said. “Blitzing, covering, making calls, talking and tackling. I had to learn everything because I’ve come a long way since switching from receiver. I won’t lie to you, the hardest thing I’ve learned is tackling. You come in and may want to guard people, but the first thing you’ll do in this program is tackle people.”
Coach Kirby Smart has seen Webb’s growth over the last two season and likes the way he’s headed.
“He’s bright. He’s tough. He’s fast. He covers well,” Smart said. “He continues to improve. I think he’s a guy that still has upside because he just didn’t play defensive back his whole life. So he’s still growing at the position.”
And Smart likes the fact that Webb doesn’t mind sticking his nose into a play.
“His redeeming quality is that he likes to tackle,” Smart said. “In a day and age when guys don’t love to tackle and hit, he does. And he plays with really good toughness.”
These days Webb doesn’t feel like he’s part of the game until he gets that first hit.
“I needed to get a hit during the (Murray State game),” he said. “You get beat on a play and you just have to stay your mindset. It’s only one play, so you always have to keep playing. Coach Smart always talks about how we have to keep our head in the game.”
Injury report: There is no timetable on the immediate return of Kearis Jackson, who has a cast on his hand. Tommy Bush is recovering from a sports hernia and is at least two weeks away from returning.
“(Jackson) is available,” Smart said. “But I don’t know if we’re going to put him out there with a club. It’d be pretty one dimensional. He’s practicing. He takes routes. He catches punts. He’s doing everything but we’re not going to use him until he’s 100 percent.”