published Thursday, November 1st, 2012

UGA's Jenkins thrives: Freshman linebacker helped Bulldogs defense in upset win over Florida

Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Jordan Jenkins combine for a tackle against Florida on Saturday, October 27.
Photo by Wes Blankenship
Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Jordan Jenkins combine for a tackle against Florida on Saturday, October 27. Photo by Wes Blankenship

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins thought he was living the life as a backup to Jarvis Jones and learning daily from the All-American.

Then came last Saturday, when Jenkins and Jones were the two outside starters and played nearly 40 snaps together in a 17-9 upset of No. 3 Florida. The new tandem helped hold the Gators to 266 yards while forcing six turnovers as the Bulldogs won a second straight game over Florida for the first time since the late 1980s.

"It is definitely something that I am not ever going to forget," Jenkins said. "Being the starter came from hard work and dedication, and it's definitely going to get me working even harder so I can keep getting starts with Jarvis. I'm glad to have Jarvis still helping me out, and it's great that he can set tackles up for me, because they key on him.

"They sure don't key on me."

Florida couldn't slow Jones, who tallied 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Jenkins had just two tackles, one quarterback pressure and shared a tackle for loss with Jones, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said after the game that Jenkins is allowing Jones to move around more.

Grantham did not want to offer specifics this week on why that's the case, but Jenkins will be joining Jones again in the lineup Saturday against visiting Ole Miss.

"They're the kind of guys you want to have obviously from a setting-the-edge standpoint, a run standpoint and from a pass-rush standpoint," Grantham said. "Those two guys have pretty good twitch and get-off, and committing to one guy will leave somebody else with a one-on-one. By doing that, Cornelius Washington went inside and did a good job for us.

"For a true freshman to come in and do the things he's done is pretty impressive."

Jenkins has compiled 19 tackles this season along with 13 quarterback pressures, six tackles for loss and three sacks. Only Jones has more pressures, tackles for loss and sacks among the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-3, 257-pounder from Hamilton, Ga., has played in all eight games and also made starts against Florida Atlantic and Kentucky, when Jones was injured.

"Jordan has been very disciplined on his contain responsibilities," head coach Mark Richt said, "whether it's sniffing out a reverse or it's a quarterback zone read or just a pass rush where you've got to keep the quarterback in the pocket. He's doing very well, and he's been great at being where he's supposed to be."

Said sophomore cornerback Damian Swann: "He did this all camp, and he was a guy we could count on. Coach Grantham loves Jordan, and he loves the way he plays."

The time is coming when the Bulldogs will have to part ways with five defensive seniors and three juniors -- Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive lineman Kwame Geathers -- who could elect to forego their senior seasons. Jenkins and Swann would then be among Georgia's top returning defenders, along with sophomore inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera and junior defensive end Garrison Smith.

Jenkins believes those days can wait, because he is loving the now.

"I'm having the most fun I've ever had in football," he said. "It's just great knowing that I'm a freshman playing football with one of the top defenses in the SEC and the nation and that we're a BCS contender. It's also great to know that I can compete fairly well with these guys, and I'm not the guy who's a liability when I get in the game."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs held a two-hour workout, with starting fullback Merritt Hall and starting nose guard John Jenkins sitting out with ankle injuries. ... Richt expects Jenkins to play Saturday but said Hall likely is out.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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