ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia's primary defensive front last week of Abry Jones, Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins did not fare well statistically.
There were no solo tackles among them or any tackles for loss, yet the Bulldogs rolled to a 59-0 rout of Coastal Carolina, allowing the Chanticleers one offensive play on Georgia's side of the field. Second-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was quite pleased with the performance, so what to make of the stat sheets in regards to the play up front?
"They don't mean anything," Grantham said. "You watch the tape and see how physical they are at the point of attack. Are they getting their hands on guys and knocking them back? Are they being physical? Are they pushing the pocket in the pass?
"You just watch the tape and see if they're giving us a presence or commanding double teams or just being disruptive."
Grantham is liking the presence his first line of defense is providing in the 3-4 system entering Saturday's game at Ole Miss. Georgia was expected to be better up front this year with the return of Jones at end, the shifting of DeAngelo Tyson out to end, the emergence of Geathers this spring at nose and the arrival of Jenkins, the backup nose who plays some at end, from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
The four prominent defensive linemen weigh a combined 1,316 pounds, and they don't mind the fact they rarely accumulate monster statistics. Jones leads the group so far with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss, while Tyson is next with seven tackles and a lost-yardage stop.
"If we're playing good and getting pressure on the quarterback, then the defensive backs will have a good day," Tyson said. "If we can keep the linemen off the linebackers, then they can have a good day. It's just a team thing. If you've got a good D-line, then you've got a good defense."
Said Jenkins: "Playing the position that I play, my job is to free other guys up. If I'm doing my job and we're making plays, then I'm going to be as hyped as anybody."
Comparing Georgia's defense overall to last season is tricky, because the Bulldogs already have faced the stout offenses of Boise State and South Carolina. Statistics will show the Bulldogs allowed 45 points to the Gamecocks, basically denting their scoring defense average for the season, but they actually yielded 17 due to the scores Georgia gave up on offense and special teams.
The Bulldogs are allowing more yards per game this season, which also is affected by the strength of their first two opponents, but one stat Grantham can and does point to is third-down performance. Georgia ranked last in the Southeastern Conference last season, allowing opponents a 42-percent conversion rate, but the Bulldogs are currently second in the league behind Florida, yielding a 26-percent clip.
Georgia is last in the league in sacks with one, with that coming on a Sanders Commings cornerback blitz against South Carolina, but Grantham isn't troubled by that, either.
"My whole thing is disrupting the quarterback and getting him off the spot and doing those things," he said. "Sacks is a number that I like and everybody likes. It's a visual play, but if you go back through the history, there is no correlation between a lot of sacks and making the playoffs or winning.
"Now, I do think you need to have pressure in the fourth quarter, and I think that stopping them on third down is also a lot more important."
And if that starts up front, then all the better for Grantham, even if his linemen aren't compiling the stats.
"I think we've been doing a pretty good job," Tyson said. "We have a lot of guys who have learned what to do. It's not new to them anymore. We're really able to move fast and play full speed, and you do better when you play full speed."