ATHENS — Georgia redshirt freshman Broderick Jones felt the nerves entering into the CFP Championship Game late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs’ offense struggling mightily to that point, unable to get into the end zone.
This was the moment Jones, a former 5-star prospect from Lithonia, Ga., had been recruited for and trained for, but the reality of it was daunting.
“It was a surreal feeling …. a huge game, and it’s like the spotlight is on, there’s nothing else,” Jones said, meeting with the media following the Bulldogs’ Thursday practice. “It’s the last game, all the marbles on the line.”
Jones, a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder, remembers his name called to go into the game, with Jamaree Salyer getting bumped inside from left tackle to guard.
“I was nervous,” Jones said, “But not to the extent I couldn’t perform.”
Indeed, of all the things Jones said he learned most during his two seasons on campus, “composure” topped the list.
The lessons served Jones well with Alabama All-American Will Anderson lined up across from him and drawing a bead on quarterback Stetson Bennett.
Coach Kirby Smart and former line coach Matt Luke wouldn’t have put Jones on the field if he wasn’t prepared, and the level of competition Jones saw from the time he walked into Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall had taken care of that.
“Coming in, you know, 5-star recruit, big headed, I’d gotten humbled real fast,” Jones said. “Going against people like Azeez (Ojulari), and Jermaine (Johnson) and Nolan Smith.””
No doubt, Ojulari led the SEC in sacks Jones’ freshman season, while Johnson led the ACC in sacks this season and Nolan Smith is a former No. 1 overall recruit continuing to blossom.
“You learn to sit back and watch the people ahead of you,” said Jones, who benefited from the teachings and technique of Salyer. “You watch what they are able to do and re-create that by taking coaching.”
Smart likes what he sees from Jones, who is evolving into the can’t-miss player most everyone projected he would be.
“I think he has learned from some really good leaders, Jamaree and Justin (Shaffer), both those guys are great leaders,” Smart said.
“He has to continue to learn to be productive and physical. One thing about those two guys was they were extremely physical. They enjoyed the contact part. The run game came really easy for them. That part, for Broderick, he has to work and strain at that.”
Jones appears anchored in as the Bulldogs starting left tackle for the 2022 season, but he agrees with his head coach’s assessment.
“As long as you keep your head down and keep working, and you’re able to be coached, you’ll be OK,” Jones said, before addressing the area he needs the most improvement.
“I would say being more physical. This is grown man football, so I would say being more physical.”