Georgia football: Kirby Smart reflects on birth, evolution of dominant defensive front
Jordan Davis was in a reflective mood Tuesday evening and recalled that it was 4 years ago to the day that he committed to Georgia.
“4 Years ago… I made the commitment of a lifetime. Thank You DawgNation,” Davis tweeted.
Part of the commitment could be traced to defensive line coach Tray Scott giving Davis his first offer as a high school sophomore when Davis was on North Carolina’s staff.
It came at a time when Davis had basketball on his mind, and had only played JV football.
“I hadn’t seen a big kid like him have the ability to go over bags, move and bend like that,” Scott said, per ESPN. “I offered him. I didn’t find out until afterward that he hadn’t even really played football yet.”
Davis to this day is appreciative.
“To a kid who never played a down of high school football,” Davis wrote in the tweet posted in 2017.
That commitment from the 3-star Davis, which was the third-lowest pledge in the 2018 class Davis was a part of, was only part of the heart and soul and backbone of this championship defense. Players who came from that 2018 class like LB Adam Anderson, leading tackler LB Channing Tindall and DL Devonte Wyatt have been in the middle of thrusting Georgia into historic airspace with a smothering defense and undefeated SEC record.
4 Years ago… I made the commitment of a lifetime. Thank You DawgNation ❤️🖤 https://t.co/tabZRxMeSi
— Jord9n D9vis (@jordanxdavis99) November 17, 2021
Coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday that he couldn’t exactly pinpoint when he realized the defense would be dominant, but assistant coach Will Muschamp indicated that he thought it was a special unit, especially up front. Smart said his first realization came against Clemson in the opener.
In the spring, Smart recalled that his first focus was on the offense after George Pickens’ injury, and the formerly high-powered offense was suddenly short-circuited.
Muschamp then turned him on to the defensive front being different, Smart recalled. “He was right. He’s been around a lot of good ones, and seen them, and I think the combination of Jalen (Carter) growing up, those 2 coming back (Davis and Wyatt), Travon (Walker), there’s just a lot of good players up there, and that front has really helped us.”
There aren’t 2 better defensive minds across the SEC to identify and build a defense, and while Muschamp only recently arrived, Smart and Muschamp understand that building a defense begins up front. The Tennessee game was another example of the depth of talent on the team when Carter left with sickness, and Wyatt missed time with a rib injury, that Georgia did not see a drop off even though it was down the depth chart.
“We only had so many left and we were playing those guys,” Smart said Monday.
To back up his point, 23 players have recorded at least half a tackle for a loss.
Smart said the front’s confidence exudes itself to the rest of the team, including the secondary, which had the biggest question mark of the defense entering the season.
“Those guys are not as confident as the front and the linebackers,” Smart said.
Speaking of the secondary, that unit that drew concern in the summer made Smart proud last week against Tennessee in one of the toughest tests of the season to date.
“I was very proud of them, not a bump in the road,” he said. “They were tested. They had good players and they had the ball in the air. If you go back to the previous weeks, you can’t see where we made a lot of plays down the field and made plays on the ball. We definitely got tested and we gave some plays up. When you play the style of play we did last week, you’re going to give plays up, and they’re tough to defend.”
The Tennessee performance should give the secondary confidence, Smart said, because the defensive backs competed, and covered them some, and got beat some.
“We’ve got good enough players up front that they’ve got to win most of their battles, not all of their battles,” he said.
It began with a 3-star out-of-shape player who had basketball dreams, and now that defense is chugging toward Atlanta on a big game trophy hunt for SEC hardware and beyond.