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How Jordan Davis kept the weight off and became UGA’s most important defender

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Jordan Davis is poised for big season with Georgia football

When you recruit as well as Georgia has in recent seasons, there’s a lot of attention and emphasis on the 5-star recruits the Bulldogs are chasing. They’re usually the fastest, most athletic prospects in the country and potential game-changers for programs.

This fall though, you might want to pay more attention to the 330-pound former 3-star defensive lineman at the center of the Georgia defense as opposed to the eight former 5-stars on Georgia’s defense.

Because that’s both how good and important Jordan Davis is to the Georgia defense.

Related: Dan Lanning offers high praise for Jordan Davis

Davis has come a long way from his high school days when he was playing offensive tackle for Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, N.C. Weight has always been a concern for Davis, which is why despite his 6-foot-6 frame and rather quick first step, he was the No. 424 prospect in the 2018 recruiting class.

The junior defensive tackle has never shied away from his weight issue and has now turned it into a motivating factor.

Like many during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, Davis was worried about adding on extra weight. But he got that under control and looks to be in the best shape of his career entering a pivotal 2020 season.

“It’s just trying to progress every day,” Davis said. “Move that chip lower and lower, move faster and faster every day. I’ll look at myself in the mirror sometimes and be like, ‘Dang you’re really slimming up.’ So, it’s just good to see the progression.”

Davis acknowledged that he’s under a lot of pressure this season, and that is by his own design. Georgia doesn’t have any direct replacement for Davis — though no team in America has many spare 6-foot-6, 330-pounders lying around — and he does so much in terms of opening things up for the rest of Georgia’s talented defense.

“He’s taking on two or three blocks, he’s a zero nose,” Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith said. “He’s a big guy and I love the energy he brings every day.

“The guys that bring that type of energy, that stuff is what makes the Georgia defense what it is.”

Related: Nolan Smith on Georgia pass rush: ‘We’re gonna cause a lot of havoc’

With Davis taking on a larger role as a sophomore, the Georgia run defense went from mediocre to the best in the country. Georgia gave up just two rushing touchdowns all season, and both of those were to quarterbacks.

With teams unable to run the ball, it also helped give Georgia the No. 1 scoring defense in the country.

So how does Davis improve from last season, where he was a lynchpin for one of the top defenses in the country?

“I look at a lot of my game film my freshman year, sophomore year and I feel like I played too loose,” Davis said.  “I want to tighten up my technique and keep the power and strength that I also have naturally and push the pocket.”

Georgia football defensive lineman Jordan Davis

In 2019, Davis registered 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Those don’t seem like big-time numbers, but when you consider his primary job is to occupy blockers in order to free up Georgia’s other defenders, it makes sense.

The reason though for the excitement surrounding Davis from both plugged-in Georgia fans and NFL scouts is because Davis began emerging as a disruptive force late last season. His 2.5 sacks all came against Florida, Texas A&M and LSU.

Because of that late season surge, Davis will begin the year as a first-round draft pick according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.

“His tape as a sophomore last season was full of dominant flashes,” Miller wrote. “If he takes the next step in 2020, his 6’6″, 310-pound frame could make him a Javon Kinlaw-type prospect and a top-10-graded player.”

Georgia doesn’t need to be reminded of how destructive Kinlaw was against the Bulldogs last season. Much like how Davis no longer needs to be reminded about keeping his weight under control.

“That’s why I have to keep running. Keep gunning,” Davis said. “Pass rushing and technique are the biggest things for me.”

Georgia is going to need Davis to take on a larger role this season. Even as Davis swears there’s no drop-off between this year’s defensive line and the 2019 group, the Bulldogs must replace five defensive linemen from last year’s team. Most importantly for Davis, the Bulldogs don’t have Michael Barnett. He split reps at the nose tackle position with Davis and actually started six games at the spot.

Georgia’s defensive coaches want the team to rack up more sacks and tackles for loss this season. To create more havoc than the defense did a season ago when it ranked 46th in sacks and 60th in tackles for loss.

Davis though won’t be counting his own individual numbers this season. While he can create his own disruptive plays, the first thing Davis looks for is actually the stats of his teammates, specifically Georgia’s talented linebackers.

“If the linebackers get a lot of tackles, that means I’m usually doing my job right,” Davis said. “I always say ‘Two on me, somebody’s free.’ Usually, when the linebackers make a tackle for loss it’s usually because of something on the d-line.”

For Georgia this season, Davis figures to be that something quite often.  If he does it enough, he figures to be the next Georgia defender to be a first-round pick. Not bad for one of the lowest-ranked members on Georgia’s entire roster.

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