ATHENS — The stats say that Georgia had the best secondary in the nation last year, while its uber-talented outside linebackers had a season that could best be described as “eh.”
The contrarian view, as expressed by Kirby Smart last month, is that Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins actually were very good, and in fact were a big reason Georgia allowed the least amount of passing yards in the nation. The theory is that the previous defensive staff used Floyd and Jenkins’ pass-rushing prowess to “protect” the young secondary, which benefitted by being in better coverage situations.
Not surprisingly, Floyd and Jenkins agree.
“That definitely was a goal me and Jordan had set going into every game: Make the quarterback get rid of the ball as quick as possible so the DBs can cover,” Floyd said.
“We definitely wanted to take some of the stress off the younger DBs. Because we didn’t want to put them in a lot of man-on-man type situations,” Jenkins said. “We knew they were younger, and we just wanted to make it easier for the freshmen coming in.”
That doesn’t mean Jenkins thinks the secondary was overrated.
“Oh no, there are still some good athletes back there,” Jenkins said. “We just wanted to eliminate that from even being in the mindset. We wanted them to be able to go ball out and play without worry.”
The secondary, in Year 2 under Jeremy Pruitt, started two sophomores (safety Dominick Sanders and cornerback Malkom Parrish), a rotation of freshmen at the other cornerback/nickel spot (Rico McGraw, Juwaun Briscoe), a former walk-on (cornerback Aaron Davis). The grizzled veteran, safety Quincy Mauger, was a junior.
But that young unit limited opponents to 156.4 passing yards per game, the best in the country. Even without the final two games against triple-option run teams (Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech) the Bulldogs would have ranked in the top 10.
Meanwhile, Floyd and Jenkins each finished with their career-lows for sack totals: Floyd at 4.5 sacks and Jenkins at four. Jenkins missed one game and was limited in others by a hip flexor injury.
Neither Floyd or Jenkins think the stats reflect the seasons they had.
“No sir,” Floyd said. “Because we set each other up a lot.”
By that, Floyd meant that the defensive scheme would sometimes call for them to do something, such as absorb blockers, that freed up the other pass rusher. And as Smart mentioned, the schemes would call for Floyd and Jenkins to blitz early to force a quick throw.
“There’s probably some plays where you’ve got to see it on film,” Floyd said.
Floyd and Jenkins are now hoping that NFL scouts are doing just that, and looking past their pedestrian sack numbers to see what Georgia coaches saw.
“I’m the type that if I had to go down and play more inside to get more pass rushers and more athletes on the field, I would,” Jenkins said. “There are times I’m setting up other guys to make plays. And hopefully that’s what coaches see. Just the way I play, and not the stats. Just the way I go about business on the field, and the passion I have for the game.”