— ATHENS, Ga. — Though it may not get the attention of 3,000 yards passing or 1,000 yards rushing, a double-digit sack season is a common goal for outside linebackers.
The Georgia Bulldogs have a three-year streak going in that category, with Justin Houston attaining 10 sacks in 2010 and Jarvis Jones making 13.5 in 2011 and 14.5 last season. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins said in the spring that he would like to continue the surge, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham would have no problem with that.
“The last two we’ve had at that position have had double-digit sacks,” Grantham said. “I want Jordan to be a complete linebacker. I want him to be a guy who is stout against the run and creates TFLs, things that force other teams to throw the ball, which creates the opportunity to get sacks.
“The better he does from a run standpoint and a setting-the-edge standpoint and a creating a tackle-for-loss standpoint, that will allow him to become that double-digit guy.”
A top-20 national prospect in the 2012 signing class according to Scout.com, Jenkins made an immediate impact with the Bulldogs, compiling 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The 6-foot-3, 246-pounder from Hamilton, Ga., was so impressive early that Grantham inserted him into the starting lineup for five of Georgia’s final six regular-season games.
With Jones now property of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jenkins is Georgia’s top pass-rushing threat just 15 months after his graduation from Harris County High School.
“I definitely have to do what those guys before me did, because they did some great things,” Jenkins said. “Now it’s my turn to step to the plate, because without those sacks and without those forced fumbles, we can’t win. Every time we’re plus-1 [in turnover ratio], I feel like we have a higher chance to win the game.”
Jenkins knows he is no longer that “other” linebacker besides Jones. Fellow sophomore James DeLoach is the projected starter opposite Jenkins, though DeLoach missed most of preseason camp after spraining ligaments in his left thumb on Aug. 4.
“It’s going to be different, because other teams are not going to be keying on another guy and not worrying about you,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to force me to have to play a little harder and study the film more and actually pay attention to the other teams’ antics.”
Included in that study will be last season’s SEC title-game matchup against Alabama, when the Crimson Tide ran straight at Jones for most of the second half and wound up compiling 350 rushing yards.
Jenkins believes the youthful defense can benefit from facing Georgia’s offense every day in practice. He does not, however, want the defense to lean on the other side the ball at any point this season, including Saturday’s opener at explosive Clemson.
“Our offense is going to do its thing, and I feel like as a defense we have to do our thing to be great,” he said. “We’ve lost all those guys, and there is no room for errors. We can’t slip up, and we have to be 100 percent all the time. I don’t want it in our mindset that if we mess up, the offense will bail us out. I don’t want to instill that philosophy in anybody.”
Said Grantham: “I’ve been very pleased with Jordan’s work ethic. He’s everything I thought he would be.”
GEORGIA LOST EIGHT DEFENSIVE STARTERS FROM 2012, INCLUDING SACK-LEADER JARVIS JONES.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...