SEC: Jarvis Jones

ATHENS, Ga. -- Todd Grantham made one point abundantly clear in 2010 as soon as he arrived at Georgia to become the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator. He was here to beat Florida, because beating the Gators is the jumping-off point for every goal the Bulldogs hope to achieve in any given season.

“When we go to recruit a guy, the first thing I ask is, 'Can we beat Florida with this guy?' Because if you beat Florida, your chance of winning the SEC East got a whole lot better,” Grantham said after Saturday's 23-20 win over Florida extended Georgia's series winning streak to three games.

[+] EnlargeTodd Grantham
AP Photo/Paul AbellTodd Grantham's defensive unit is a big reason why the Bulldogs have won three straight games against Florida.
Let's put that in perspective. The Georgia-Florida rivalry wasn't even competitive when Grantham joined Mark Richt's staff. Even Florida's mediocre teams found ways to win in Jacksonville -- like when the 2002 Gators who would finish with an 8-5 record handed Georgia its only loss that season and cost the Bulldogs a chance to play for the BCS title.

Dating back to 1990, Florida had won 17 out of 20 games against Georgia when Grantham arrived and seven of nine since Richt took over in 2001. And in the last two games in the series that Willie Martinez served as Georgia's defensive coordinator, Florida's 2008 and 2009 teams beat Georgia by a combined 90-27 margin.

The common theme in each of Georgia's three straight series wins, however? Grantham's defense made big plays when it mattered most and kept Florida out of the end zone. Although they did not turn the ball over on Saturday, the Gators totaled eight turnovers in the teams' previous two meetings, and they have scored just three offensive touchdowns in the last three meetings in Jacksonville.

“Like I said when I first came here, I think I understand who the fans want to beat when you're playing here, and I know that Florida's one of the teams that they want to beat,” Grantham said. “So that's why we make it a big game with our players. I think that's one of the reasons that we've had guys step up, meaning Jarvis [Jones] two years ago, Corey Moore made a play today. I've seen Damian Swann make a play, Amarlo [Herrera], Ramik [Wilson] – a lot of guys made some plays, but they know it's time to man up and go play.”

Perhaps the biggest defensive play of Saturday's win came midway through the fourth quarter, when Grantham decided to blitz safety Moore when Florida faced third-and-12 against the reeling Bulldogs. Moore tracked down Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy and sacked him for a 14-yard loss at the Florida 43-yard line. That forced the Gators to punt, and Georgia's offense was able to run out the clock on the ensuing possession and protect its narrow advantage.

“I really almost said to Coach Grantham, 'Go sic em. Go get em,' ” Richt said. “When I'm saying that, I'm saying, 'Bring the house. Bring more than they can block. Play man coverage with no safety help and let's just see what the heck happens.' Something big's going to happen one way or the other and I held my tongue on it, and he called the blitz. And I'm like, 'I'm with you 100 percent,' and I really was.”

Maybe that was a glimmer of hope for Grantham's young defenders. Earlier in the season, maybe they would not have successfully made that play. He pointed to the overtime win against Tennessee, where the Bulldogs were unable to slow down the Volunteers as they mounted a second-half rally, as a time when his defense wasn't tough enough.

“The other team's going to make plays and they're going to do things,” Grantham said. “But when that happens, you've got to have the mental toughness and the maturity to go put the fire out, and we preach to our guys all the time about, 'This is what you live for. Seize the moment. Enjoy the opportunity. Go make a play.' ”

Believe it or not -- and the fourth-year coordinator's detractors within Georgia's fan base will likely be stunned by this revelation -- Georgia has held all but one opponent (Tennessee) below its season average for total offense. And after yielding 400-plus yards in four of the first five games, the Bulldogs have held their last three opponents below the 400-yard mark and to an average of 68.5 yards per game below their season averages.

They're dead last in the SEC in scoring defense (31.6 ppg), however, in part because of frequent special-teams meltdowns and offensive mistakes deep in Georgia territory.

Georgia ranks 112th nationally and last in the SEC in opponent yards per point -- a statistic that divides the number of points a team allows by the yardage its opponent covered to score. The five teams that rank immediately behind Georgia's average (12.1) on that list have a combined 7-35 record this season: Cal (1-8), Colorado (3-5), Idaho (1-8), UTEP (1-7) and Iowa State (1-7).

Of course, Georgia's defense could always have made more stops after being placed in those bad positions. And the Bulldogs certainly could stand to become more effective on third down (they're 12th in the SEC, allowing opponents to convert 42.5 percent of the time).

But little by little, Grantham's defense is beginning to show some promise -- and perhaps Moore's sack is another sign that the light is flipping on for Georgia's defenders who lacked on-field experience when the season began.

“Part of the job as a coordinator is you've got to be aggressive in those situations and let the players go win the game,” Grantham said. “Individual performance wins the game. We put them in one-on-one matchups on that. We were in one-on-one matchups in coverage, we were in one-on-one matchups up front and the guys executed the call and we stopped them. ... In my mind, you want to end the game. That's what I wanted to do was end the game right there."

Four ways for UGA to generate turnovers

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
7:00
AM ET
ATHENS, Ga. -- Jarvis Jones and Bacarri Rambo became All-Americans in part because of their abilities to steal the ball from opponents -- Jones with his persistent motor and pass-rush skills and Rambo with his ability to get into position to make drive-killing interceptions.

They led a Georgia defense that generated 62 turnovers over the last two seasons, a total that ranked eighth nationally and second in the SEC behind only LSU's 63. Jones and Rambo are now in the NFL, however, while 10 other contributors from last season's defense are also no longer on the roster.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham went from having one of the league's most experienced defenses to one of the greenest. It's no secret the results have been ugly, with Georgia ranking last in the SEC in scoring defense (33.7 ppg), second to last in third-down defense (43.7 percent) and last in turnovers generated (five).

The last figure is striking considering that three of those turnovers -- muffed punts by Clemson and LSU and a lost fumble for a touchback by Tennessee's Alton "Pig" Howard as he dove for the pylon in overtime -- came either on special teams or by a fluke accident.

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia freshman linebacker Leonard Floyd is second on the team in sacks with four.
As with most of Georgia's defensive shortcomings, the turnover drought is largely a product of youth. But there are ways that the Bulldogs can create more turnovers, and they discussed four key factors in generating more takeaways this week:

Mature before our eyes: Georgia's inexperience is the factor that will require the most patience.

Bulldogs coach Mark Richt explained that a young defender's first obligation is typically to make the basic play before attempting the explosive play, but the Bulldogs have struggled with both to this point.

“They're still just trying to get lined up right and play the right fundamental and get a guy on the ground or just bat a ball down rather than go for the pick and that type of thing,” Richt said. “So they're learning and as they go. They'll get more comfortable and they'll be able to make more plays.”

Grantham insists turnovers have always been an area of emphasis, but the Bulldogs say they're working on it even more lately.

“We really haven't worked on it as much as we should in practice, so now we're emphasizing it a lot more and working on getting the ball out,” safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said.

Drills only get a player so far, however. For most, increased effectiveness is a byproduct of experience.

“We can work drills till we're blue in the face, but you've got to do it in the heat of the battle,” Richt said. “You've got to keep coaching it, teaching it, show the situation where, 'Hey, in this situation here, you might could have raked the ball out. Instead of just wrapping up the QB, you might could've stripped it out of there.' ”

Strip the quarterback: One of the reasons Jones was dangerous was his ability to not only sack opposing quarterbacks, but to strip the ball from their hands.

He led the nation in sacks (14.5) and forced fumbles (seven) and frequently capitalized on what Grantham said is the easiest route to a turnover.

“The quarterback fumbles more than anybody else on the team because he's looking down the field, not at a [rusher],” he said. “A runner is looking to know that, 'Hey, they're going to hit me. I'm going to protect the ball.' A quarterback's looking to throw the ball down the field. So from that standpoint, there's a better chance to get the ball out.”

Georgia's defensive linemen and outside linebackers, many of whom are underclassmen and first-time starters, haven't developed such savvy yet.

“Coach is probably going to have us doing drills [this week] trying to get a sack with the ball out, so we're probably going to work on that all this week trying to prepare us for [Vanderbilt],” said freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who is tied for fifth in the SEC with four sacks.

Dislodge the ball: Maybe the most overlooked play in the Bulldogs' 42-10 win against Georgia Tech last fall was when Rambo halted the Yellow Jackets' first drive by ripping the ball out of Robert Godhigh's hands at the goal line and returning the fumble 49 yards to midfield.

Georgia scored another touchdown shortly thereafter and it was quickly 14-0 Bulldogs. Tech never threatened Georgia's lead again that day, although it could have been a different ballgame if not for Rambo's early takeaway.

“I remember Rambo dislodging a couple guys from the ball, kind of learning how to dislodge the ball. There's a technique to it, there's an art to it,” Grantham said.

Swarming to the ball also helps. Once Rambo had help on the Godhigh tackle, he had the confidence to try to rip the ball from the Tech runner's hands.

“We've just got to be around the ball,” said linebacker Amarlo Herrera, who has Georgia's only forced fumble. “If more people are around the ball to make a tackle, then one person can pull it out.”

Better breaks on passes: Another product of youth is that Georgia's defensive backs have broken up a handful of passes that could have been interceptions had they gotten just a split second better break on the ball.

Several members of Georgia's secondary discussed the need to improve their “eye control” -- reading the depth of a quarterback's drop and quickly deciphering how the play might develop based on what they see.

That means not biting on a play-action fake or getting out of their assigned zone -- and again, becoming sound in that area typically comes with experience.

“When you're a pattern match team and you're matching routes, you're reading the eyes of the quarterback and that gives you a chance to break on the ball based upon the distribution of the routes,” Grantham said. “The quicker you can do that, the better break you can get on the ball, which allows you to get the pick.”
ATHENS, Ga. -- James Franklin's reputation as a physical runner precedes him to the point that Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins knows his nickname is “The Tank.”

“If you let him get going a little bit, he's going to be a hard guy for some of the smaller linebackers and DBs to tackle,” Jenkins said of Franklin, who will lead Missouri's potent offense against the Bulldogs on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsMissouri quarterback James Franklin poses a threat to the Georgia defense because of his ability to scramble outside the pocket.
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Franklin presents a different challenge than most dual-threat quarterbacks the No. 7 Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0 SEC) have faced in recent seasons. He is a capable passer and is quick enough on his feet, but it's his willingness to run over defenders that separates him from signal-callers who mix some runs in with their passing skills.

Keeping Franklin bottled up -- and getting him on the ground -- will be a major test for Georgia's shaky defense. No prideful defensive player wants to get flattened by a quarterback, but Franklin has already done his share of flattening.

He comes in averaging 5.2 yards per carry as one piece of Missouri's four-pronged rushing attack that leads the SEC with an average of 258.8 yards per game.

“He's a quarterback. If he comes my way, I'm going to try to kill him. That's just it,” Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said. “I've seen games where he does lower his shoulder like that. That's the last thing you want to do is get run over by a quarterback.”

Georgia has faced plenty of dual-threat quarterbacks since Todd Grantham became the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator in 2010 and has experienced mixed results against the group as a whole. They were 5-5 in his first two seasons against BCS-conference quarterbacks who rushed for at least 200 yards in a season – surrendering at least 70 rushing yards to a quarterback four times in those 10 games.

Overall, the Bulldogs have done a better job limiting the damage against dual-threat quarterbacks since then, surrendering 70 rushing yards to a quarterback twice -- both times it was South Carolina's Connor Shaw -- and posting an 8-2 record against teams whose offenses utilized a mobile quarterback.

That includes a 41-20 win against Franklin and Missouri last season, when Georgia did its best to take away the run and force Franklin to try and win with his arm. He threw 41 passes that game, completing 25 for 269 yards and two scores, but picked up only 25 rushing yards on 20 attempts.

“Last year our focus was really making him play quarterback and not run over [us] because all we heard from the reports was that he was a big quarterback, he could move and that he's just a guy that's not easy to take down,” Jenkins said. “We're just really going to try and focus on keeping him in the pocket at times.”

Largely while trying to pass from the pocket, Franklin absorbed a Jarvis Jones-led beating that night in Columbia that affected him for the rest of the season. Jones harassed Missouri's quarterback into multiple turnovers and hit him hard enough that Franklin missed the following week's game against Arizona State. Truthfully, Franklin was not the same player for the rest of the season, as injuries set in and prevented him from playing the physical style that suits him best.

“The Tank” seems to be back, however, as Franklin has led No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0) to an undefeated start by passing for 1,407 yards and 13 touchdowns against three interceptions and rushing for 278 yards and two scores.

“James is healthy and he's more confident. He's running well. ... He's standing in the pocket with a lot of confidence and he's very accurate,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Franklin, who is completing 68 percent of his passes. “He's on target and he looks like he's in his element.”

Taking him out of his element for a second straight season will be the goal for Georgia's defense -- but it must do so without Jones around to wreak havoc in the Mizzou backfield. In fact, only three starters remain from the group that took the field last season in Columbia, so Franklin and the rest of Missouri's explosive spread offense appear to be a major match-up challenge for Grantham's young defense.

“Anytime you've got a quarterback that can run the ball in the spread, they make you defend the entire field with the formations and with what they're doing,” Grantham said. “Anytime the quarterback runs the ball, you've got truly 11-on-11 and he can create an extra gap, so when you do that, you obviously create some issues that you've got to address.”

Shaw and Clemson's Tajh Boyd, both talented dual-threat quarterbacks, exploited those issues and enjoyed success against the Bulldogs earlier this season.

Defensive lineman Garrison Smith emphasized that the Bulldogs don't necessarily need a performance like the one Jones delivered last season in order to fare better against Franklin, but that his fellow defenders must play with improved discipline. The Bulldogs must do a more consistent job of playing their assignments correctly on Saturday, or the Tigers will almost certainly put together another explosive offensive showing.

“You've got to make individual plays,” Grantham said. “This game is about winning one-on-one matchups and when you get into those situations, you've got to make it.”

Defense still seeks competent play

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
7:00
AM ET
ATHENS, Ga. -- Winning is the best salve in sports, so Georgia's defensive lapses aren't as painful as they would have been if the Bulldogs had lost to South Carolina on Saturday and entered their bye week with an 0-2 record.

That alone is a relief for the young defenders who allowed 34 points and 460.5 yards per game against Clemson and South Carolina, surrendering 6.7 yards per play to the two highly ranked opponents.

“It definitely would have stunk. We probably would have been in full pads every day, hitting,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said of the bye-week practices. “It wouldn't have been a fun environment in Athens for these next two weeks.”

The members of Todd Grantham's defense realize that their shoddy tackling would have been the reason for the extra hitting, just as it was the reason they practiced in full pads twice last week leading up to the South Carolina game. They are simply nowhere near where they need to be if Georgia is to remain in the national championship conversation through the rest of the season.

[+] EnlargeAmarlo Herrera
AP Photo/John Bazemore)Amarlo Herrera forces a fumble by South Carolina QB Connor Shaw.
The Bulldogs' offense has mostly bailed them out thus far, but there have been too many missed tackles and busted coverages preventing Georgia's defense from even being considered competent to this point.

“We've still got some things to fix,” Jenkins said. “There were still some moments where some guys didn't know what to do. It still wasn't as much as it was last week, but we're just a defense that's coming along and we've just got to fix some small things. I know that's getting repetitive, but I feel like this week was really something that we needed as a defense.”

South Carolina finished with 454 yards of total offense and actually averaged more yards per play than did Georgia -- 7.4 to 7.1 -- but there were a couple of bright spots for the Bulldogs in the second half.

For starters, Amarlo Herrera continued his difference-making play at inside linebacker. A week after notching 12 tackles against Clemson, Herrera made another 12 stops -- none bigger than when he met Gamecocks running back Mike Davis at the goal line on a fourth-down option run and forced a turnover on downs.

“They just came out in a formation that we knew and [South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw] checked, so I kind of knew by the alignment what play they were going to run,” Herrera said. “So I just ran to the running back.”

Herrera also tracked down Shaw from behind in the third quarter and forced a fumble that Josh Harvey-Clemons recovered at Georgia's 25-yard line.

Because of those two giveaways, the Gamecocks mustered just six points in the second half on Saturday, despite generating 221 yards of offense and averaging 7.9 yards per play in the half.

Some of those yards played out in ugly fashion for the Bulldogs, such as when Davis broke a 75-yard run deep into Georgia territory, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run where he ran straight through tackle attempts by Herrera, Ramik Wilson, Harvey-Clemons and John Taylor. Or when Nick Jones twice burned freshman cornerback Brendan Langley for touchdown catches in the second quarter.

“It's not easy to play corner in this league, or any league for that matter, in college football,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “You're going to get challenged, especially if you're a rookie. And he got challenged. He got beat once or twice, but he hung in there.”

Certainly some of Georgia's early problems were to be expected. With a big group of inexperienced players taking over for 12 major contributors -- most notably NFL first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree -- from the 2012 defense, naturally there have been some growing pains.

Langley is a true freshman who lined up against All-American Sammy Watkins and an array of other talented Clemson receivers in his first college game. Other new starters like Leonard Floyd, Harvey-Clemons, Sterling Bailey, Wilson and Tray Matthews intrigue the coaches with their talent, but sometimes frustrate them by not performing as consistently as they'd like.

“We're young and we're learning,” Harvey-Clemons said. “A lot of us -- like me and Corey [Moore] -- this is our first time playing, so once we get together and get some games under us and get that chemistry going, I feel like there will be a lot of trouble for offenses to come."

The open date comes at a good time for the Bulldogs (1-1), allowing them to regroup from as tough a first two weeks as Georgia has ever faced in program history. With a week off followed by a visit from North Texas (1-1) before LSU (2-0) comes to Athens on Sept. 28, Grantham and company can use the rocky first two games as a teaching tool in a low-pressure environment before life gets difficult again.

LSU has diversified its offense this season and will present a bigger challenge than its run-heavy attacks of the past. And Tennessee's and Missouri's offenses will likely try to spread the field and tear holes in Georgia's defensive scheme, as well.

In short, this is a nice break, but the Bulldogs must be better prepared to be on the defensive soon. They know it as well as anyone.

“We find a way to make a play, make a turnover, keep grinding,” Grantham said. “I think that I saw some improvement over last week. I thought our front guys were physically stout at the line of scrimmage. I think we've got to do a better job on the edges in the run game. … We've just got to keep working and if we do that, we'll be fine.”
Behind Jordan Jenkins' boyish smile and playful attitude lies what Georgia hopes is a beast in waiting.

Last year, the country got a glimpse of what could be greatness when Jenkins, just a freshman, finished the year second on the team only to two-time All-American Jarvis Jones in sacks (five) and quarterback hurries (23).

[+] EnlargeJordan Jenkins
Kevin Liles/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia's Jordan Jenkins plans to improve on his five sacks and 23 QB hurries from last season.
With Jones gone, Jenkins moved across the field to Jones' old Will linebacker spot. The heir apparent is now the guy, but things weren't always so glamorous for Jenkins.

Back up to Sept. 1, 2012, and you'll find the puppy form of Jenkins. His immaturity still fresh, Jenkins would become the poster boy for what not to do in your first collegiate game in the Bulldogs' season opener against Buffalo.

After a timeout, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham called for his nickel team to hit the field, meaning Jenkins was subbing in for defensive end Cornelius Washington. But when Grantham looked up, he noticed "a lot of space" next to his nose guard.

Perplexed, Grantham looked to his side and saw Jenkins standing next to him. Buffalo immediately ran a play before Grantham even had time to say anything to Jenkins.

"Of course they ran the ball right where he was supposed to be." Grantham said laughing.

"He heard about that."

Jenkins said he thought Washington was going back in. With the play coming after a timeout, he figured Washington was fresh.

Negative.

Jenkins said Grantham lit into him on the sideline and then chewed him out again during the team's next film session. For a while, he couldn't escape Grantham's wrath, but he learned from what he can laugh about now.

"It was a pretty funny experience looking back at it now," Jenkins said. "After that moment, I never took a play like that for granted."

And it paid off. The game that really sticks out to him is the one against Tennessee. Jenkins was only in for five plays, but he took advantage of each one and eventually forced a late, fourth-quarter fumble on his sack of quarterback Tyler Bray that helped secure the Bulldogs' 51-44 win.

Now, Jenkins can't afford to be wide-eyed. He can't afford another sideline blunder. He's replacing one of the greats, and the pressure is on.

But Jenkins not only embraces the pressure, he adds more with his goal of breaking Georgia's single-season sack record of 14.5 that Jones set last season.

However, for someone looking to break Jones' record, Jenkins sure does act a lot like him.

Last year was the first time he actually had someone to mold his game after. He "learned as he went" in high school, but listened to everything Jones said, and stole whatever he could from Jones' game to make himself better.

"Having Jarvis there, I always had someone to correct me on things I did wrong and someone to learn from," Jenkins said.

"That man, he just reacts to everything so much quicker than I do. I'm starting to use my hands like he does, and I'm just going to keep that."

He's working on his hand-eye coordination and has taken Jones' hand scissor swipes that made him so effective at shedding blockers and chasing quarterbacks. To perfect Jones' move, Jenkins spent the spring putting his hands up and swiping them as he moved around corners.

It was pretty awkward -- or "sketch," as Jenkins put it -- but it helped create muscle memory for Jenkins on the field. It came at the cost of almost hitting a girl as she got off the elevator, but in pure Jenkins fashion, he quickly rushed to her aid and opened the door for her.

Jenkins was nice about that, but he won't be nice about creating uncomfortable situations for opponents this fall. He's out of the second-guessing stage and has gone from reacting to blockers to beating them to spots. While Grantham says Jenkins is capable of playing all five linebacker spots and can drop into coverage if needed, Jenkins says he's thrilled to shift most of his concentration to hunting quarterbacks.

Jenkins knows he isn't Jones, but he wants to create his own story in his place. And if he starts receiving the Jones treatment from teams, Jenkins says he'll be ready.

"I hope teams ain't game planning against me, but if they are, I'll have to work even harder to beat them," he said.

Countdown to SEC kickoff: 28 days

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
9:00
AM ET
If you were ranking the SEC individual records most likely to never be broken, which ones would be at the very top of that list?

One that immediately comes to mind was set going on 25 years ago by perhaps the greatest pass-rusher to ever play the game. To this day, that number almost seems unfathomable: 27.
The late Derrick Thomas registered 27 sacks during the 1988 season and finished his Alabama career with 52 sacks. Both are SEC records, and nobody has come close to those numbers since Thomas left the Capstone for NFL stardom. In fact, the closest anybody in the SEC has come to 27 sacks in a season since Thomas established that dizzying benchmark was Mississippi State’s Willie Evans, who had 15 sacks in 2005. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones had 14.5 sacks last season, and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney had 13. Is it realistic to think that Clowney could make a run at Thomas’ record this season? If Clowney could just get to 20 sacks and the Gamecocks have a successful season, he’d be right in the middle of the Heisman Trophy race. But 27 sacks? Think about it. In a 13-game season, that’s averaging just over two sacks per game, and Thomas needed just 12 games in 1988 to set his record. Of course, it’s not a given that Clowney will lead the SEC in sacks this season. He’ll have some stiff competition. The dark horse, if you will, is Florida’s Ronald Powell, who’s healthy and one of those guys who could explode after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. The Gators will move him around, and coach Will Muschamp said they’ll play more 3-4 this season to get both Powell and Dante Fowler Jr. on the field at the same time.

The SEC's best 25 players: No. 21

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
1:00
PM ET
Jarvis Jones made quite a name for himself in Georgia's 3-4 defense, and this next guy in our countdown has that same type of big-play ability.

No. 21: Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia, So.

2012 summary: Jenkins made six starts as a true freshman and finished second on Georgia's team with five sacks. He had 31 total tackles, including eight for loss. His 23 quarterback hurries were also second on the team behind Jones' 39. Jenkins received Georgia's Newcomer of the Year Award.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2012 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Jenkins: Just like Jones the past two seasons, Jenkins will play the role of disrupter in Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense. He's an excellent pass-rusher, and the kind of player who will draw double teams and open up things for other players. The 6-3, 246-pound Jenkins is also much more than just a pass-rusher and plays the run equally well. His eight tackles for loss tied with Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. for the most among SEC true freshmen a year ago. Look for Jenkins to rank among the league leaders this season when it comes to big defensive plays. He's already said that 10 sacks is his minimum goal, and he has the burst and overall skill-set to make a run at the 14 sacks Jones put up last season to lead the SEC. Jenkins was on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, and even though he's only played one year of college football, is poised to establish himself as one of the premier defenders in the league in 2013.

The rundown
  • No. 22: Craig Loston, S, LSU, Sr.
  • No. 23: Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt, Sr.
  • No. 24: Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia, So.
  • No. 25: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida, Jr.

Georgia Bulldogs spring wrap

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
9:30
AM ET
GEORGIA BULLDOGS

2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 7-1 (first, SEC East)
Returning starters: Offense: 10; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: QB Aaron Murray, RB Todd Gurley, CB Damian Swann, WR Malcolm Mitchell, OLB Jordan Jenkins, OL Kenarious Gates, OG Chris Burnette, ILB Amarlo Herrera

Key losses: OLB Jarvis Jones, LB Alec Ogletree, S Shawn Williams, S Bacarri Rambo, NG John Jenkins, CB Sanders Commings, WR Tavarres King

2012 statistical leaders (* - returner)
Rushing: Gurley * (1,385 yards)
Passing: Murray * (3,893 yards)
Receiving: King (950 yards)
Tackles: Ogletree (111)
Sacks: Jones (14.5)
Interceptions: Swann * (4)

Spring answers

1. Safety starters: With 2011 All-Americans Rambo and Williams completing their college careers, the Bulldogs entered the spring with two big holes at safety. It appears sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons and January enrollee Tray Matthews have all but claimed the starting positions, however. Harvey-Clemons was named the Bulldogs’ defensive MVP of spring practice, and Matthews generated the most buzz of anyone this spring with his ability to deliver crushing hits. Georgia’s inexperience along the back end of the defense is not ideal, but the two youngsters could become a pleasant surprise.

2. Newcomers contribute: Matthews wasn’t the only early enrollee who made his mark during the spring -- and many of those 13 newcomers will play big roles in the fall. Others like defensive lineman Chris Mayes, linebacker Reggie Carter, cornerback Reggie Wilkerson and running back/receiver J.J. Green all but ensured that they will contribute this fall by acquitting themselves nicely while learning how to function as college players. Keep an eye on another early enrollee, receiver Tramel Terry, once the Bulldogs open preseason practice. Terry did not practice this spring while recovering from a torn ACL suffered late last fall, but he could be healthy by August and could become yet another valuable freshman.

3. Returning weapons: With almost everyone returning on offense -- only King and receiver Marlon Brown are gone among the key contributors -- the Bulldogs should be able to score with as much efficiency as last season’s group that set a school record with 529 points. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo already knows what players including Murray, Gurley, tailback Keith Marshall and Mitchell can do. This spring, players like offensive MVP Chris Conley, G-Day standout Jonathon Rumph and Green also flashed the potential to make the offense even more potent.

Fall questions

1. Starting quickly: A defense that must replace 12 key performers was a pleasant surprise this spring. But can Todd Grantham’s rebuilt defense reload quickly enough to hold its own against the likes of Clemson, South Carolina and LSU? Georgia faces all of those teams before the end of September. Grantham’s defense underperformed a season ago despite a wealth of NFL-ready talent. The talent is still there, but the defensive coaches have their work cut out with so many inexperienced players needing to be ready for the season-defining early schedule.

2. Offensive line rotation: With Burnette out for the entire spring and offensive tackle John Theus out for the first half of the practices, offensive line coach Will Friend had plenty of reason to shuffle his lineup -- and that’s exactly what he did. Friend’s group returns everyone from last season, including four players who started all 14 games, but he did not seem prepared to guarantee any starting jobs at the end of the spring. It’s possible that the shuffling could continue in August, and he might allow a greater number of linemen to play once the season begins.

3. Sack specialists: Jones led the nation with 24.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season while serving as the Bulldogs' top pass-rusher. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins appears to be first in line to replace him -- and he has already informed his predecessor that he intends to eventually break his school sack record -- but Jones set an awfully high bar for Jenkins to attempt to clear. In order to make Grantham's 3-4 defense function correctly, the Bulldogs need Jenkins and some of the defensive linemen who will be stepping into larger roles to keep applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
The SEC's 63 NFL draft selections was a record for any league and blew away every other conference this year.

The next closest was the ACC with 31 draft picks. In fact, the SEC's East produced 32 draft picks and the SEC West 31. The old record for the most draft picks for one conference was 55, set by the Pac-10 in 1983.

The SEC had 32 players selected in the top three rounds. That compares to 16 a year ago. The next closest conference in the top three rounds was the ACC with 12 players selected.

The only school in the SEC that didn't have a player taken in this year's draft was Ole Miss.

Alabama and LSU tied for the most draft picks this year in the SEC. Each had nine. Florida State was tops in the country with 11.

Here's the rundown by SEC team:
  • Alabama: 9
  • LSU: 9
  • Florida: 8
  • Georgia: 8
  • South Carolina: 7
  • Texas A&M: 5
  • Arkansas: 4
  • Tennessee: 4
  • Mississippi State: 3
  • Missouri: 2
  • Vanderbilt: 2
  • Auburn: 1
  • Kentucky: 1

And here's a link to the round-by-round listing of all 63 SEC players drafted.
It’s always revealing to go back and see where the top NFL draft picks from the SEC were ranked coming out of high school.

Of the 12 SEC players drafted in Thursday's first round, nine were selected as ESPN 150 prospects. And of those nine, six were ranked among the top 60 prospects nationally when they were going through the recruiting process in high school.

That’s not a shabby percentage by the ESPN recruiting folks.

Last year, six of the nine SEC players going in the first round were unranked nationally by ESPN coming out of high school. So it's never an exact science.

The highest-ranked player this year taken in the first round was Florida safety Matt Elam, who was the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2010 class and the No. 2 athlete. That same year, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner was the No. 16 overall prospect and the No. 2 cornerback, while Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was No. 25 overall and the No. 3 defensive tackle.

The lowest-ranked of the SEC’s 12 first-rounders this year was Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but his issues were academic-related.

Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack also flew under the radar coming out of high school. He wasn’t even ranked among the top 30 prospects in the state of Georgia by ESPN, and said the home-state Bulldogs didn't offer him a scholarship.

Here’s a breakdown of all 12 SEC players taken in the first round, including their national rank by ESPN coming out of high school, their position rank, other players ranked ahead of them, their grade and where they’re from:

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (No. 2 to the Jaguars): No. 83 overall in class of 2010, No. 6 offensive tackle. Three of the tackles ranked ahead of Joeckel signed with SEC schools -- No. 2 Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), No. 3 Ian Silbermann (Florida) and No. 4 Chaz Green (Florida). Grade 81. Arlington, Texas

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (No. 6 to the Browns): Unranked nationally in class of 2009, No. 34 outside linebacker. Among the outside linebackers signing with SEC schools that were ranked ahead of Mingo that year were Chase Vasser (Georgia), Greg King (Tennessee), Chaun Gresham (South Carolina), Nigel Mitchell-Thornton (Tennessee), Jerod Askew (Tennessee), Dexter Moody (Georgia) and Tana Patrick (Alabama). Grade 78. West Monroe, La.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (No. 9 to the Jets): No. 16 overall in class of 2010. No. 2 cornerback. The only cornerback ranked ahead of him nationally that year was Lamarcus Joyner, who signed with Florida State. Grade 84. Millbrook, Ala.

Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (No. 10 to the Titans): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 16 offensive guard. No. 35 in the state of Georgia. Eighteen other players who signed with SEC schools that year from the state of Georgia were ranked ahead of Warmack. Grade 79. Atlanta.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (No. 11 to the Chargers): No. 12 overall in class of 2009. No. 1 offensive tackle. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who was the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, was also in the 2009 class, but was unranked nationally as a defensive end. Grade 86. Foley, Ala.

Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (No. 13 to the Jets): No. 107 overall in class of 2009. No. 8 defensive tackle. The three defensive tackles ranked ahead of him that year who signed with SEC schools were No. 2 Gary Brown (Florida), No. 4 Josh Downs (LSU) and No. 7 Chris Davenport (LSU). Grade 81. St. Louis, Mo.

Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (No. 17 to the Steelers): No. 59 overall in class of 2009. No. 6 outside linebacker. No. 7 in the state of Georgia. Jones signed with USC out of high school before transferring to Georgia. The No. 1 outside linebacker nationally that year was Manti Te’o. Grade 82. Columbus, Ga.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (No. 18 to the 49ers): No. 71 overall in class of 2010. No. 7 safety. The No. 1 safety nationally that year was Jonathan Dowling, who signed with Florida. Grade 81. Geismar, La.

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (No. 23 to the Vikings): No. 25 overall in class of 2010. No. 3 defensive tackle. The only two defensive tackles ranked ahead of him that year were No. 1 Dominique Easley (Florida) and No. 2 Taylor Bible (Texas). Grade 83. Philadelphia, Pa.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (No. 29 to the Vikings): Unranked nationally and at his position in class of 2009. Patterson didn’t qualify academically and spent his first year out of high school attending North Carolina Tech and then played two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before transferring to Tennessee. Rock Hill, S.C.

Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (No. 30 to the Rams): No. 29 overall in class of 2010. No. 4 safety. Ogletree started out at safety at Georgia before moving to inside linebacker. Grade 83. Newnan, Ga.

Matt Elam, S, Florida (No. 32 to the Ravens): No. 9 overall in class of 2010. No. 2 athlete. Ranked as an athlete that year by ESPN. The No. 1 athlete was Ronald Powell, who also went to Florida. Grade 86. Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The SEC had 12 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, tying the record set by the ACC in 2006.

No other conference had more than six first-rounders this year. The ACC had six, and the Pac-12 was next with five.

Six of the top 13 selections were from the SEC, including three in a row from Alabama. Cornerback Dee Milliner went No. 9 to the New York Jets, offensive guard Chance Warmack No. 10 to the Tennessee Titans and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker No. 11 to the San Diego Chargers.

Alabama running back Eddie Lacy did not go in the first round as projected. The Crimson Tide have produced 13 first-round picks over the past four years.

For Alabama coach Nick Saban, that gives him 22 players that he has recruited and signed in his 11 seasons as an SEC head coach who've gone on to become first-round NFL draft choices. Saban was responsible for signing all nine of LSU’s first-round selections from 2004-09, and he signed 13 of Alabama’s 14 first-rounders over the past five years.

LSU had two players go in the first round -- defensive end Barkevious Mingo No. 6 to the Cleveland Browns and safety Eric Reid No. 18 to the San Francisco 49ers. The Tigers have produced five first-round selections over the past three years.

Florida and Georgia also had two players each taken in the first round. All four were defensive players.

In fact, eight of the 12 SEC players taken in the first round this year were defensive players. The only offensive skill player selected in the first round from the SEC was Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29 to the Minnesota Vikings. Patterson became the first offensive player from Tennessee to go in the first round since receiver Robert Meachem went No. 27 overall to the New Orleans Saints in 2007.

Here's a quick review from Thursday's first round:

No. 2: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 6: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU to the Cleveland Browns

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 9: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama to the New York Jets

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 10: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama to the Tennessee Titans

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 11: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama to the San Diego Chargers

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 13: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri to the New York Jets

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 17: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 18: Eric Reid, S, LSU to the San Francisco 49ers

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 23: Sharrrif Floyd, DT, Florida to the Minnesota Vikings

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 29: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee to the Minnesota Vikings

Bill Polian video analysis here.

No. 30: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia to the St. Louis Rams

Todd McShay video analysis here.

No. 32: Matt Elam, S, Florida to the Baltimore Ravens

Todd McShay video analysis here.
The number to beat is 12.

That's how many first-round picks the ACC produced in 2006, which is a record for one conference. The SEC record is 11 first-round picks, which happened in 2007.

Both records could be in jeopardy this year if projections are correct.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has 13 players from the SEC being drafted in the first round in his latest mock draft . The draft gets under way tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN with the first round. The second and third rounds will take place on Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

Kiper has Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel going No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs, which would mark the fourth time in the last seven drafts that an SEC player has gone No. 1 overall.

According to Kiper's projection, seven of the top 12 picks will come from the SEC. The SEC produced nine first-round picks last year and 10 in 2011.

Below is a rundown of the SEC players Kiper has going in the first round. He has four Alabama players being picked in the first round, which would give the Crimson Tide a whopping 14 first-round selections over the last four years.

Ten SEC players on latest Big Board

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
10:25
AM ET
With Thursday's first round of the NFL draft just a day away, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has updated his Big BoardInsider and has 10 SEC players among his top 25 prospects.

That's compared to four players each from the Big 12 and Pac-12. Kiper doesn't have any players from the Big Ten on his latest Big Board.

Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is No. 1 overall on Kiper's Big Board. Four other SEC players are included among Kiper's top 10 prospects.

Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is No. 4, LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo No. 6, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd No. 8 and Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones No. 10.

Rounding out the remaining SEC players on the Big Board are:
With four Alabama players projected to go in the first round, that would give the Crimson Tide 12 first-round selections over the past three years. Nobody else in the SEC would come close to that. LSU is projected to have two and possibly three first-rounders this year. But even with three, that would give the Tigers six first-rounders over the past three years, which would be second most in the league to Alabama during that span.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has put together his latest "Grade A" draft, in which he presents the best pick for every team in the upcoming NFL draft.

He has 12 SEC players going in the first round, which would tie the record for a conference. The ACC produced 12 first-round selections in 2006.

In Kiper's "Grade A" draft, the first three players to come off the board are from the SEC -- Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Below are the 12 SEC players Kiper has being taken in his "Grade A" draft:
Next week's NFL draft could be a special one for the SEC.

If you check recent mock drafts from ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay , the SEC could be in for a record first day in New York City. Kiper's recent mock draft has a record 13 SEC players being drafted in the first round and 21 going within the first two rounds. McShay has 11 SEC players going in the first round.

Here's a look at the 10 SEC players who were invited to next week's draft, which will be televised on ESPN on April 25 at 8 p.m. ET.
Surprisingly, Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, who are both projected to be first-round draft picks, didn't make the list.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

SEC SCOREBOARD

Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12