Jordan Jenkins (Harris County) doesn’t talk as if becoming a star is a personal aspiration. He speaks of it as more of an obligation.
His Georgia football team needs him to become the next great outside linebacker. And he plans on being just that.
“There’s no if, and or buts about it. It’s something I gotta do this season to help out the team,” Jenkins said Tuesday, after Georgia’s second spring practice. “I wanna get into that role and make new plays, and not sit back, because I’m gonna have to do it with some of the younger guys stepping up. Because I can’t rely on (Alec Ogletree) or (Jarvis Jones) or (Bacarri Rambo) or any of the other older guys to make the plays.
“Now it’s my turn. I gotta step up and do it.”
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There is a line that has formed on the Georgia defense since Todd Grantham became defensive coordinator in 2010, installing his 3-4 defense: An outside linebacker has emerged as a sack specialist.
Three years ago it was Justin Houston, who led the SEC in sacks during the regular season. When he turned pro, Jarvis Jones moved into the role, and the rest was history: two-time all-American, SEC leader in sacks the past two years and breaking David Pollack’s school record last year.
Now the line seems destined to arrive with Jenkins, who had five sacks as a freshman, second on the team last year. He was the only freshman to crack the veteran starting lineup, doing so midway through the season.
“He already has proved to us that he’s a pretty disciplined football player,” head coach Mark Richt said. “He’s just very coachable, teachable. He wants to do it 100 percent right all the time. So he’s probably more advanced than most freshmen because of that attitude.”
And the fact he played a lot last year figures in too.
“He’s gonna be in a position to make a bunch of plays for us,” Richt said.
And that might be the key for the Bulldogs.
The big concern on Georgia’s defense is that it only returns four starters and whether enough players will be able to competently fill in the remaining seven spots. But know a good way to help those new starters make plays?
Have one of those four starters become a star. And for Georgia, that’s most likely to be Jenkins.
“When you’re out on the field it’s 11-on-11, but if the offense has to set their offense based off one player and where they’re at, I guess in a way forget about the other players on the field,” said Ray Drew, who is trying to earn a starting spot at defensive end. “Even though you’re left defensive end or middle linebacker might be a legitimate threat as well, you’re so focused on that one guy that you can forget about them, which is gonna open up plays for them as well. It is good to have that one player to say, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ ”
Jenkins already has keyed in on a number for this season.
“A minimum of 10 sacks this season,” he said. “And in the spring game, I’ve gotta get three sacks. Three in the spring game and 10 in the season, a minimum of 10.”
And yes, he said it that many times just so it was clear.
But lest anyone think he’s just a numbers guy, Jenkins said he understands he just has to make more impact plays, period.
“Some of those turnovers Jarvis caused, and some of those sacks getting after the quarterback, batting the ball out, getting the scoop and score,” he said. “I’ve gotta make a lot of impact plays this year.”
There is room for improvement this year. Jenkins ticked off a number of items he wanted to work on, from reading a play in pass coverage, to using his hands more, and to not reacting to a block but going after it.
Jenkins also made clear he’s not a clone of Jones. The two were close last year, rooming together on the road, and Jenkins said he watched and learned from the All-American -- but not to imitate him. Jenkins said he will use what he learned from Jones to make him a star in his own right, and in his old mold.
“I think when people were more worried about Jarvis and (other defensive players) they didn’t really game plan for me much. But this year they might possibly,” Jenkins said. “I hope they don’t. But if they do I’m gonna beat it no matter what.”