Big expectations for Jordan Davis and Georgia’s linebackers

Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

ATHENS -- Asked how he judges success for himself at the noseguard position, Georgia’s Jordan Davis said he doesn’t look at his own stats, but those of the linebackers.

“I know if the linebackers get a lot of tackles that means I’m doing my job right,” Davis said after the Bulldogs' 19th practice on Wednesday. "I always say, 'two on me, somebody’s free.

“When the linebackers make a tackle for loss, it usually has to do with something on the D-line.”

For the record, Georgia’s inside linebackers have been collecting a lot of tackles. Monty Rice and Tae Crowder led the Bulldogs with 151 combined last season.

Such an attitude is why Georgia coaches love Davis. Not only is he a prototypically-built, NFL-style interior defensive lineman, he also combines that with the intelligence, coachability and team buy-in that that they dream about.

And did we mention that he’s big?

That’s what we mostly hear about when the conversation turns to Davis. He’s an old-school-style, 3-4 defense nose, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 330 pounds.

Give or take 10 or 15 pounds.

“There’s just not a lot of people born in this world that look like Jordan Davis, right?” Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning observed. “So, when you look like that, yeah, there’s an expectation.”

Davis' battle with his weight goes back to high school. He signed with the Bulldogs out of Charlotte’s Mallard Creek High tipping the scales at 355 pounds. He was thought to be a tad too big, which is why he carried only a 3-star recruiting rating.

Coach Kirby Smart immediately pronounced that he wanted Davis at 320 to be able to become an every-down defensive line. It’s unclear whether Davis has ever achieved that weight goal, but he has definitely gotten closer.

“I’ll look at myself in the mirror sometimes and be like, ‘Dang you’re really slimming up!’” Davis cracked. “So, it’s just good to see the progression.”

While Georgia definitely is looking at playing Davis on more downs this season, he doesn’t have to. The Bulldogs are well stocked on the interior defensive line and can and do rotate a lot of players.

Devonte Wyatt actually led that group with 30 tackles last year, senior Julian Rochester will assume some snaps in there after a redshirt year last season, and Georgia has loaded up on the recruiting trail the couple of years. Bill Norton, Tymon Mitchell and Zion Logue all redshirted as freshmen last season.

Then there’s Jalen Carter. The 6-3, 305-pound 5-star freshman out of Apopka, Fla., has been turning heads during preseason practices. He captured the intrigue of the Bulldog Nation as practice video of him locking up with Georgia’s junior center Trey Hill went viral on fan sites.

Davis, it seems, has taken Carter under his wing.

“Love him; he’s like a little brother to me,” Davis said. “You know, as all freshmen go, as I did myself, we hit these little walls and humps. I’m just trying to … to help him push through so he can help us on the defense.”

In the meantime, Davis figures he has plenty to improve on himself. Beyond weight control, he said he’s focusing hard this season on technique and pass rush. While he’s not often asked to get after the quarterback, he feels like that ability within him.

“Just trying to progress every day,” Davis said. “Move that chip lower and lower, move faster and faster every day. … I know there’s a lot of pressure on me; I put a lot of pressure on myself this for this year, especially with maintaining my weight.”

But locking up blockers on the line of scrimmage and freeing the way for linebackers is the primary role for Davis in Georgia’s vaunted defense. And he does that quite well.

“He’s taking on two or three blocks,” Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith said. “He’s a zero nose,” He’s a big guy and I love the energy he brings every day. Guys that bring that type of energy, that stuff is what makes the Georgia defense what it is."

Said Lanning: “I have really high expectations for Jordan. He has worked really hard, Tray Scott and Coach (Nick) Williams have done a great job with his development. … I expect him to really achieve the highest level this year, have a phenomenal season and to really help our team and our defense.”

Davis is down with that.

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