The Georgia Bulldogs got some good news right out of the box as they began preparations for Saturday’s game against South Carolina.
Standout defensive lineman Jordan Davis should be available to play in the No. 3 Bulldogs’ third SEC East matchup of the season.
That didn’t seem possible this past Saturday night when Davis was helped off the field just 28 seconds into the Tennessee game at Neyland Stadium. Davis, a freshman All-American last season, did not return from what was yet another ankle injury for the Bulldogs.
“We think Jordan’s going to be fine,” coach Kirby Smart said during Georgia’s weekly media day on Monday. “He’s not going to be out there today. Early on, he’s going to be rehabbing. But we think he’s going to be fine to go, so we expect him to play (Saturday).”
The Bulldogs are less certain about cornerback Tyson Campbell (foot) and left guard Solomon Kindley (ankle). Both starters missed the Tennessee game. Kindley traveled to Knoxville, though Campbell did not.
Smart said Campbell would “try to” practice Monday.
“We're hoping to get him back, but we don't know,” Smart said. “Solomon should be good to go. He's cleared.”
If Davis can go, that will be the exception to the rule this season. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson and Kindley both were unable to play in their next games after suffering similar injuries earlier this season. But Georgia also has more depth on its offensive line.
The Bulldogs don't have as many options on the defensive line, but the group held up well in Davis' absence. The Volunteers averaged just 2.4 yards a carry and rushed for a total of 70 yards in Georgia's 43-14 win.
“I didn’t see a huge difference when he wasn’t out there,” Smart said. “The thing he impacts most is the run game and we were able to control the run game pretty well. The play he was in there was actually one where a run came out. We didn’t play the run right there, but we got a lot more right as the game went on.”
Tennessee’s Tyson Chandler broke off a 16-yard run on the play on which Davis was injured. It was Chandler’s longest of the game. He’d manage just 22 more yards on his next six carries.
Georgia substitutes liberally on the defensive line, like it does at most positions on that side of the ball. Graduate Michael Barnette always rotates with Davis at noseguard and he was first in the game with Davis sidelined. But senior Julian Rochester found himself getting significantly more snaps.
They combined for four tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Vols.
“Coach Smart and all of the coaches always say ‘next man up.’ We really pride ourselves on that. So it felt like next man up. I was the next man up, so I just felt like I needed to take on that load, as well as all the other defensive linemen. We knew we were a man, so we needed to go out there and execute even better.”
Rochester has been missing for Georgia all season. The senior from McEachern suffered an ACL injury against Texas in the Sugar Bowl and has been slowly making his way back. A 19-game starter and 42-game participant in his career, Saturday represented Rochester’s first action all season.
Of Rochester’s performance, Smart said: “Awesome, proud of him, we needed him.”