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Georgia photo by Mackenzie Miles / Georgia senior nose tackle Jordan Davis has been a disruptive force for the nation's premier defense entering this week's game against Florida in Jacksonville.

Last November, as the Florida Gators were racing up and down Jacksonville's TIAA Bank Field for 29 first downs and 571 total yards, Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis was nursing an elbow injury more than five hours away.

There was nothing fun about that helpless experience.

"I can't control an injury. That happens," Davis said this week in a news conference. "Even me not being there for team morale and high-fives and little words of encouragement really hurt me. I was sitting in Athens with my mom, and I was like, 'Even if I can't play, I would kill to be in Jacksonville right now.'

"At the end of the day, it's a different year, and we're moving on."

The Bulldogs are eager to put last year's 44-28 defeat behind them and atone for a convincing Florida triumph that halted Georgia's three-game winning streak in the series. The Gators have shifted from an aerial attack that was led by Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask and touted receiving targets Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney to a run-oriented assault headed by quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson.

Jones and Richardson have a combined 113 carries for 842 yards (7.5 per rush) and five touchdowns, and Georgia fifth-year coach Kirby Smart is very appreciative of having his 6-foot-6, 340-pound senior from Charlotte available this time around.

"We were banged up last year and didn't play well honestly, and any time you've got depth at most positions it helps, especially in this game," Smart said. "I think Jordan being back and healthy is very important to us in terms of the run game and being able to control it. His ability to play multiple snaps is important, and he's got to play in this game because he's a dominant player up front.

"They've played against him before, so they know Jordan is a good player. We'll need a lot of guys to play, because those defensive linemen can't play more than 30 to 35 snaps a game."

Florida is 4-3 overall and just 2-3 in Southeastern Conference play but has outgained all seven opponents behind a rushing attack that ranks fourth nationally with 254.3 yards per game. The Gators, however, will be challenging a defense that allows 63.4 rushing yards, 208.3 total yards and 6.6 points per contest.

Davis has 18 tackles and three tackles for loss despite playing fewer than 50% of Georgia's defensive snaps, and he is the most publicized member of a unit that has taken a "no-name" moniker to heart.

"In the league we're in, you have to have some sort of run game," Smart said. "You don't have to be dominant in the run game, but you've got to be able to run the ball, and he makes us have more third-and-7s to third-and-12s than we have third-and-2s to third-and-4s. Jordan has a heavy impact on that, because it's tough to run the ball when he's in there."

Said Davis: "We embrace the no-name defense because it's all parts working together. It's not just an individual thing. You can't have a car and not have a steering wheel or a tire. It takes all parts to get that thing moving."

Davis already has moved past his 16 tackles from last season, when he was tabbed as a second-team All-America selection by the American Football Coaches Association. He made the first of 26 career starts against Florida as a freshman in 2018 and has credited fifth-year senior Devonte Wyatt for helping convince him to return this season.

A CBS mock draft this week pegged Davis going 31st overall to Tampa Bay next spring.

"I'm so glad I came back," Davis said. "I couldn't have made a better decision."

Florida fans may disagree with that assessment by Saturday night.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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