Georgia's Jordan Davis has stellar start to sophomore season

Georgia photo by Chamberlain Smith / Georgia sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Davis had a 4-yard tackle for loss and nearly blocked a field goal in last Saturday's 30-6 win at Vanderbilt.

ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia's defensive line has the rare characteristic of including six seniors.

It also has a sophomore who is hard to miss when Bulldogs defenders take the field.

Jordan Davis started four games down the stretch last season and made his presence known during last Saturday night's 30-6 opening victory at Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound defensive tackle from Charlotte, North Carolina, had a 4-yard tackle for loss, nearly blocked a field goal and anchored a front that limited the Commodores to 116 rushing yards and 225 total yards.

"He's in his second season of playing, and he's formidable," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said this week. "He's big and strong and uses his hands well, and he moves laterally as well as vertically. He's going to have a great college career at Georgia."

Davis was rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.com and a four-star recruit by ESPN and Rivals.com coming out of Mallard Creek High School, and he arrived last year knowing he would be buried on a depth chart filled with then-juniors such as Tyler Clark, David Marshall and Julian Rochester.

Yet injuries up front coupled with the effort and talent Davis displayed early resulted in starts later in the schedule against Florida, Kentucky and Auburn, as well as against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

"To be honest, last season I really wasn't planning to play," Davis said this week. "I didn't travel to the first two road games, South Carolina or Missouri. That was going to be my development year, but a few key players got hurt, and I had to step up.

"The speed of this game is different from high school, so I also had to grow up quick."

Davis had 25 tackles, three quarterback pressures and 1.5 sacks last season on his way to earning Freshman All-America honors. He did not play in the Sugar Bowl loss to Texas due to some trouble with his back, which had him a little curious about how he would perform in Nashville.

"There are always jitters in week one, because you don't know what to expect," Davis said. "We didn't know who their quarterback was going to be until the first play. You get comfortable eventually, but you don't want to be too comfortable."

Vanderbilt would have been held to just 13 first downs had penalties on the Bulldogs not provided the Commodores a new set of downs on four more occasions. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart was pleased with how Davis played but added there will be challenges down the road.

"The sky is the limit for Jordan," Smart said. "He is extremely athletic. He's big. He's smart. He's fun to talk to. He's just entertaining, but Jordan has to work really hard to keep his stamina up.

"People can negate him by going fast and going hurry-up to wear him down, but he's extremely physical and is a typical SEC defensive lineman."

Davis got his hand on the ball on Ryley Guay's 26-yard field goal in the second quarter that pulled the Commodores within 21-3. Thinking he had blocked the kick to maintain Georgia's three-touchdown lead, he started to celebrate by heading out to midfield.

The scene provided some levity in an otherwise methodical pounding of the Commodores.

"We work on that in practice, and I try to get push in the middle and bust through the seam with my hand up," Davis said as he began to smile. "I was celebrating, but then I heard everybody yelling to me that it went in, and I was like, 'Aw, man.'

"The kicker had a good enough leg and skimmed it through, but there are going to be more opportunities for me, so hopefully I can grab me one."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.