Jordan Jenkins tends to take things to heart. Consider his comments when asked — yet again — about not having recorded a sack this season.
The sophomore outside linebacker practically fell on a sword.
“People need to ask; people need to voice it,” Jenkins said this week. “Zero sacks in three games, yeah, it is reason to worry.”
Asked why he hasn’t been able to get to the quarterback, he laments.
“I feel like it’s me,” he said. “I feel like I’ve just been thinking about it too much. I sat down with my dad and talked about it, and he said ‘you’re trying too hard and too worried about sacks and letting it take away from other aspects of your game.’”
So, yes, it’s on his mind.
But it’s not as bad as Jenkins would have you think. According to coaches and teammates, he has played pretty well. There is more to playing his position than bringing down quarterbacks, though that’s the play that brings the glory.
“He’s playing the run pretty good,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He’s coming off the edge and forcing quarterbacks to get up in the pocket. That’s part of his job, containing the quarterback and getting him to move up in the pocket. Hopefully we’re pushing the pocket up front to the point where we’re disrupting the guy’s timing and things of that nature.
“He’s gotten a few knockdowns, and he’s playing hard. That’s what we’re asking him to do, and the sacks will come in time.”
Said junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera: “He’s playing good. He’s doing his job. He doesn’t have any sacks, but he’s still doing his job and playing good football. … When other people start talking about it, it probably does bother him then, but that guy is just a hard worker. He’s always going to work hard.”
Jenkins’ work is showing up in the box score. He has 15 tackles — an average of five per game — and has a team-best four tackles for loss. He had two tackles for loss totaling 13 yards against North Texas on Saturday, including one in which he body-slammed the runner to the ground.
“That really got me excited,” Jenkins said. “I did a little old-school yell I used to do in high school. After I got one of the TFLs, I decided to bring that back. I’m just glad I’m playing well against the run. I feel like I’m playing the run a lot better than last year, and that was definitely one of the goals I had.”
Not playing the run well was the biggest knock on Jenkins when played his way into a starting position toward the second half of his freshman season. Playing opposite Jarvis Jones, the SEC’s leader in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss for two seasons, Jenkins found himself getting a lot of one-on-one opportunities, and he took advantage of them. He finished the season with five sacks — second only to Jones’ 14.5 — and added 23 quarterback pressures.
Jenkins ranks second on the team with six hurries this season, and he has come tantalizingly close to turning one or two of them into sacks. At least one caused North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson to throw an errant pass Saturday.
“On film, Jordan is doing his job,” junior linebacker Ramik Wilson said. “He’s setting the edge and getting tackles for loss and pressuring the quarterback. We’re only three games in, and it’s a long season. So his turn will come. I think Jarvis or Cornelius (Washington) or one of them didn’t have one by this time either. So I think we’re ahead of the game right now.”
This year it has been freshman Leonard Floyd who has benefited from the attention Jenkins is commanding. The freshman recorded two sacks against the Mean Green and leads the team with seven quarterback hurries.
Georgia enters the LSU game eighth in the SEC in sacks, with five. And the Tigers have allowed four all season. But the thinking is that there will be a lot of opportunities because LSU’s 6-foot-5, 235-pound Zach Mettenberger is less mobile than the first three quarterbacks the Bulldogs faced. The key will be getting the Tigers into the right down and distance.
“We need to stop the run early on and force them to pass and start running some pressures against them,” Jenkins said. “I feel like we’ll definitely open up some more opportunities. Their line focuses on run-blocking, and that’s what they’re used to doing and want to do the whole game.
“If we force them to throw the ball it might throw them off a little bit mentally and allow us to win this game.”
Maybe then Jenkins will feel some peace.