Jordan Davis making highlights for Georgia defense

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

ATHENS – If there is a college football player having more fun than Georgia’s Jordan Davis, then we’d like to see him.

Davis, the Bulldogs’ super-sized senior nose guard, is doing what everybody expected him to do this season. That is, he’s dominating the interior defensive line of scrimmage.

But he’s also doing some unexpected things, such as running down opposing skill players outside of the tackle box.

To date, Davis has at least three such perimeter tackles. One of those made several national highlight shows as the 6-foot-6, 340-pound lineman ran down Alabama-Birmingham quarterback Tyler Johnson on the Georgia sideline Sept. 11.

“I think everybody saw that play against UAB,” senior linebacker Quay Walker said. “That surprised me, to be honest. I’m there on the field with him and have seen him run. That’s something he pretty much does in practice, so I wasn’t surprised with that part. But to see him move that fast, that was the fastest I’ve ever seen him move.”

It surprised the Blazers quarterback as well.

“The crazy thing is, the UAB quarterback looked at me and we locked eyes for a second,” Davis said, grinning wide at the recollection of it. “And he just ducked his head and took off running. I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to him at this point.’ I had to keep going after him.”

It should be pointed out that Johnston actually gained nine yards and a first down on that play. But the resident effect was much greater on the game and on the Bulldogs’ season.

To start, Georgia’s sideline absolutely erupted in celebration as Davis’ momentum carried him beyond the boundary and into his teammates’ feet. Davis was nearly knocked unconscious with all the hard slaps on his helmet.

More important, though, Davis made a statement that he has taken his game to a different level and that he’s plans to bring the Bulldogs’ defense with him.

Always a first- and second-down, block-absorber for Georgia, Davis has reached a point in his training and conditioning that he’s now a multi-down threat who can pressure quarterbacks and make plays in the backfield. Entering Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt, Davis already has eight tackles – that’s half of his total all last season – to go along with three tackles for loss, three quarterbacks pressures and 1.5 sacks.

In the last game, Davis combined with outside linebacker Nolan Smith for a sack of South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty that ended in a safety 24 seconds before halftime. He also notched another one of those perimeter tackles, teaming up with defensive end Travon Walker to bring down running back Kevin Harris for a one-yard loss outside right end.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Davis’ progression from plump 3-star recruiting prospect to tackle-to-tackle terror has been a joy for all to observe.

“Yeah, I’m really excited about Jordan,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday night. “I think he’s a tremendous worker, a tremendous person. I think you’re seeing this side of Jordan that we had seen prior, but (defensive line coach) Tray (Scott) has done a great job honing in his skill set.

“You know, he initially was a block-striker, an anchor, I would say. He was an immovable object, and that was great. But that only gets you so far. To get tackles for a loss, you’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to stunt-step, you’ve got to have twists, you got to have gains. And I think that’s where Tray and Dan (Lanning) and Schu (Glenn Schumann) and all the guys on the defensive staff have done a great job of creating movement so that guys up front can make plays.”

Indeed, Davis is not going at it alone. He is teaming with fellow interior D-linemen Jalen Carter (6-3, 310), Devonte Wyatt (6-3, 315), Zion Logue (6-5, 295) and Nazir Stackhouse (6-3, 320) to give the Bulldogs one of the more formidable fronts in college football. The rotation therein is what allows Davis and the other down linemen to have the energy to relentlessly pursue the football, no matter where it goes.

That line is the primary reason Georgia enters Week 4 leading the SEC in total defense (216.7 ypg) and is second in scoring (7.7 ppg), sacks (14), interceptions (5) and pass-defense efficiency (85.8).

As for Davis, he said he’s not much of a stats guy. He knows his tackles are up and sacks and pressures are coming at a greater rate. He knows he’s gaining notice as a college star and an NFL prospect.

But that’s not what motivates him.

“Just winning. I just want to do all I can for us to win,” Davis said. “That’s pretty much my whole goal here. I love to win. ... I just want to do whatever it takes for us to win. If that’s me running to the ball or me playing blocks for the linebackers doesn’t matter. Every game is not going to be my game.”

Still, Davis admitted, “I do surprise myself sometimes.” He enjoys it when the Bulldogs review game video and he sees himself bearing down on a running back or quarterback behind the line of scrimmage and everybody in the room gets excited.

“It’s fun seeing it in hindsight,” he said of those highlights. “But it’s just one of those things that, if you can make the play, you have to make it. If you can’t, a teammate will. But it’s fun watching it.”

Georgia fans will second that.