Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Despite dominating, Jordan Davis challenged by Kirby Smart to get ‘in in the best shape of his life’

There was perhaps no one happier about Jordan Davis electing to return for his senior season than inside linebacker Nakobe Dean. With Davis occupying opposing offensive linemen, it will allow Dean to rack up more stops.

“When I found out Jordan was coming back I had a big smile on my face,” Dean said.

And there was arguably no one whose life will be made more difficult with another year of Davis than center Warren Ericson, as the two battle constantly during practice.

Yet both are equally excited about how Davis will make them individually better.

Life is much easier when you have Davis on your team.

“He’s something different,” Ericson said. “Going against him every single day, I notice myself getting better in different aspects I need to. It has definitely been a blessing so we can both improve our games.”

Related: Making the case for Jordan Davis as UGA’s best and most important player

Because of Davis manning the middle of the Georgia defense as its nose tackle, the Bulldogs have been able to lead the country in run defense in each of the past two seasons. If Davis had elected to turn pro following his junior season, he likely would’ve heard his name called during the NFL draft.

But Davis wanted to prove that he could do more. While he’s a dominant run defender, he’s largely been a non-factor when it comes to pressuring the passer. Davis picked up just .5 sack for the Bulldogs in 2020.

The reason for the wide gap for Davis when it comes to defending the run and pass? Davis’ ability to be on the field.

“The game of football is played so differently now and there’s certain games where he’s a larger factor in and there’s some games we try to make him a no-factor when they’re spreading the ball out, throwing the ball a lot,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s harder for him to be a contributor when the ball game speeds up.

Davis’ conditioning and weight have long been a talking point for Smart. He’s had no issue pointing out that if Davis is to see the field, he must monitor his weight and improve his conditioning.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Smart once again challenged Davis when it comes to his physical fitness.

“Jordan’s biggest issue is conditioning and weight control,” Smart said. “He knows that and we’ve got to get him to cut some more for him to be elite.”

If Davis is in better shape, he’s able to play more snaps. If he’s able to play more snaps, he’s likely on the field in more passing situations.

Which should allow Davis to show that just because he hasn’t racked up sacks in his first three seasons at Georgia, does not mean it is a skill he does not possess.

“It’s critical that he gets in the best shape of his life,” Smart said. “Part of the reason he decided to come back was to get in great shape so he could create some more value and that’s what he is working on.”

Davis won’t need to be where Smart wants him to physically on Saturday when Georgia holds its spring scrimmage. The senior from Charlotte will have all offseason to continue to trim his body so he can become an every-down defensive lineman for Georgia.

In the meantime, he’s spent his spring making life miserable for Ericson and making things easier for his fellow defenders

“Same thing he’s always been doing,” Dean said of what he’s seen from Davis. “He just dominates.”

Dean did add that Davis has become a more vocal leader, especially when it comes to the defensive line. That’s another tool NFL teams would like for Davis to have when he does ultimately reach the next level.

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