Georgia football: Jordan Davis' return, D-line's performance are key to bottling up Florida's explosive plays
Jordan Davis didn’t play for Georgia in last season’s game against Florida, a 44-28 loss, as he dealt with an elbow injury, and being in Athens away from the team made it that much worse.
The defensive tackle wished he could have been there to boost morale and offer a word of encouragement.
“I was sitting in Athens with my mom and was like, ‘Even if I couldn’t play, I’d kill to be in Jacksonville right now,” Davis said. “They needed that type of support. But at the end of the day, it’s a different year, we’re moving on, the past is the past, the future is the future, that’s how we’re looking at it.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart sees Davis’ return as a boost to the overall defensive effort, which will need as many bodies as possible to rotate in, especially up front.
“The depth on the defensive line as a whole is big,” Smart said. “We were banged up some last year and didn’t play real well honestly, and anytime you’ve got depth at most positions, it helps, especially in this game. I think Jordan being back and being healthy is very important to us in terms of the run game and being able to control the run game and his ability to play multiple snaps will be important. He’s got to play in this game because he’s a dominant player up front. They’ve played against him before, they know Jordan’s a good player and we’ll need a lot of guys to play because those defensive linemen, they can’t play more than 30 to 35 snaps a game.”
The word of the week for Georgia in describing the Florida offense is “explosive.” Particularly from the quarterbacks this season, Florida has an 80-yard run, 2 runs of at least 70 yards, 2 runs each of at least 50 and 60 yards and 3 runs of 40-plus yards. The Gators also lead the SEC with 20 runs of at least 20 yards.
“It kind of gets us to lock in, especially going off the result from last year, and how dangerous that Florida team is and can be,” Davis said of the Florida QB’s capabilities.
Davis said he tries to soak up 2 blockers in order to free a teammate to make a tackle, but to also stay within the gaps of the defense, and not lose containment.
That’s what concerns Smart.
“Their run game has been really special because you talk about the quarterback in the run game, plus their ability to get the ball to 3 good backs,” Smart said.
Last year, Florida pulled away on explosive plays, as the Gators had a 2-play scoring drive early in the second quarter that covered 75 yards. Then on the next drive, the Gators scored on a drive where they hit pass plays of 37 and 24 yards. Florida ultimately scored 24 points in the closing part of the second quarter.
“You can’t give up explosives at the rate we gave them up,” Smart said. “And if you give up explosives, that’s probably the No. 1 indicator, even more than turnovers, to who wins games. We just gave up too many and didn’t make enough.”
This season, preventing big plays has been one of the trademarks of the Georgia defense, as the Bulldogs lead the SEC by allowing just 49 plays of 10-plus yards, and for context, the next-best team, Mississippi State, has given up 70. Georgia has yielded 14 plays of 20-plus yards, while the next-best team, Kentucky, has given up 21.
It’s obviously a point of emphasis as Smart and Davis each volunteered that word — explosives — when describing Florida’s offense. With Davis back, and more depth on the Georgia defense, the Bulldogs are in position to limit those kinds of plays this time around.