ATHENS – Jordan Jenkins says he hopes his friend and position-mate Jarvis Jones will be able to play against Kentucky this Saturday. But his comments belie him.
Jones, Georgia’s All-American outside linebacker, did not practice again on Wednesday. He has now missed every workout since he suffered a right ankle injury in the Bulldogs’ loss to South Carolina Oct. 6. And because of the off week, the Wednesday practice represented what would normally be the Thursday walk-through on a game week.
In other words, it doesn’t look like Jones is in position to start, much less play, against the Wildcats. And Jenkins, his backup at the weakside outside linebacker position, doesn’t seem too bummed about it.
“I’ve been thinking on it,” Jenkins said following Wednesday’s practice. “If (Jones) doesn’t play or plays hurt a little — I don’t know which it’s going to be — I’m going to try to hurry up and get some sacks. I want to get up to his level or get past him before he gets back.”
Jenkins, a true freshman from Harris County, trails Jones 5.5 to 3.0 in the quarterback sacks department. As it turns out, the two have a very competitive relationship, in a friendly kind of way.
“I never get no congratulatory stuff from Jarvis,” said Jenkins, a 5-star signee out of Harris County High School. “And I always do everything for him. When we get to the hotels – we room together – the AC will be right by him. I’ll say, ‘how ‘bout turning the air down.’ He’s says, ‘you got legs; go ahead and get up freshman.’ Somebody will knock at the door for roll call, I’ve got to get up from the far side of the room and go open the door.
“But I love him. It’s brotherly love. I’ll take a little bit of it.”
Obviously, Georgia would be better off playing Jones, who led the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss a year ago and earned national player of the week honors earlier this season. But in addition to the ankle injury, the 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior has been playing with a strained groin and sprained left knee most of the season.
As a result, Jenkins has played more snaps than most anticipated coming into the season. He already started in Jones’ place against Florida Atlantic in the third game this season. Jenkins has collected 15 tackles, five tackles for loss, eight quarterback pressures, a pass break-up and a fumble recovery in his limited playing time.
“I like him,” Richt said. “He’s very disciplined in what he does. He’s one of those kids who, when you teach him something, he tries to do it just the way you tell him to do it. He creates good habits on a daily basis. He’s gotten a ton of reps as a freshman and he’s taken full advantage of them. He has a lot of the physical attributes you’d like to have in a great rush guy. I think he can play it very well.”
Richt said Jenkins reminds him of Jamal Reynolds, an Augusta native who earned All-America honors while playing defensive end at Florida State from 1997-2000. Reynolds was the No. 10 overall pick by the Green Bay Packers in the NFL draft
“Kind of the same body type, real athletic, fast, smart kid,” Richt said. “But I don’t know if Jamal showed up as big and physical as Jordan is right now.”
For the record, the coaching staff is being very evasive about Jones’ availability on Saturday.
“There will be an injury report that will come out in just a minute,” coach Mark Richt said. . . . “I’m sure you would understand I don’t really want the whole world to know what’s going on because somebody has to play us and decide whether they’re planning for him or not planning for him. So that’s why I’m not going to say anything.”
Jenkins was less ambiguous about it. “I’m starting to get the feeling, not seeing him come back today. I started thinking, ‘OK, OK, I might be starting Saturday. I need to get my stuff ready and let Coach Grantham know I my playbook and I’m not going to mess up on anything.’ I did pretty good today.”
Whatever happens with Jones on Saturday, it’s clear that Jenkins will play a major role. And he claims he’ll be ready for it.
“I think having that start against Florida Atlantic definitely helped me,” Jenkins said. “I’ll know what to expect; I won’t be nervous; I won’t be caught up in the lights. I felt like the last game I started I did all right but I didn’t do anything exceptionally well. I want to perform better than that. I’m going to try to come out from the get-go full-speed and be ready to get some things going.”
And in all seriousness, Jenkins said Jones has been his biggest advocate, as well as his biggest critic. Jones has tried to teach Jenkins everything he knows about playing outside linebacker.
“This whole past week, me and Jarvis have really been working on my pass rush,” Jenkins said. “When we’ve been doing one-on-one, he’s been working with me on my moves. I’ve got four or five down and I’ve got one Jarvis says I can do better than him. . . . He’s always helping me out and fine-tuning my pass rush. . . . I love the experience of having him here to help me out.”
Then Bulldogs practiced for 90 minutes in a non-contact workout Wednesday as they made final preparations for Kentucky. It was their sixth practice for Saturday’s game due to the off week. They’ll have a similar practice on Thursday. “We had very few missed assignments with the number one unit, a few with the number twos, and we’ll do it again tomorrow,” Richt said. “We’re working on getting ready to play fast.” . . . The Bulldogs are being tight-lipped about “a surprise guest” who is scheduled to be on hand for the “Tailgate with the Team” special event that is being planned for Thursday night at UGA’s Legion Field. The pep-rally-style event will feature Richt and the entire team. … Tailback Ken Malcome and fullback Dustin Royston returned to practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday with an undisclosed illness. Defensive end Dexter Morant remained sidelined with the same malady.
MORE GEORGIA FOOTBALL