South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones certainly are in the conversation.
“I think he’s a great player, he’s a workhorse,” Jones said. “I think he’s way bigger than me. I’ve watched him a little bit, but I’ve never watched a whole game of him or anything like that.”
The 6-foot-6, 256-pound Clowney, who gave Georgia fits in last year’s 45-42 Gamecocks win, was named SEC defensive lineman of the week on Monday for the second time this season. The sophomore had four tackles, including 2 ½ for loss and a sack in a 38-17 win at Kentucky Saturday.
Jones, 6-3 and 241 pounds, is third in the SEC in sacks per game (1.13) and second in tackles for loss (2.0). Clowney is fourth in sacks (1.10) and third in tackles for loss (1.9).
“I’m not into challenging who’s better or none of that,” Jones said. “I know I work hard. I’m going to challenge everybody I’m up against. I’m sure he’ll do the same.”
Against Tennessee, Jones had eight tackles, including a half for loss, but was held without a sack.
Coach Mark Richt said Tennessee mixed run and play-action and ran a lot of quick game passing with quarterback Tyler Bray.
“They just flat out can block, too,” Richt said of Tennessee’s big and athletic offensive tackles. “We just weren’t able to get there and when we did get close, Bray did a pretty good job of getting rid of the ball instead of taking a sack."
Focus on first downs late
On a day when Georgia put up 51 points and 560 yards of total offense, coaches still found an area it wants to improve: its fourth-quarter showing.
Georgia punted on four straight possessions, including three three-and-outs.
“I think it hurt us when we slowed down and tried to milk the clock a little bit,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We kind of lost our advantage by being aggressive and a no-huddle tempo. We’ve got to do a better job of that. Fortunately our defense bowed their neck at the end of the game and created all those turnovers.”
It was similar to how Georgia played late in games last season when holding a lead.
“We just really haven't done a good job of that in recent memory,” Richt said. “It's not like we didn't have a plan. We had a plan. It just wasn't good enough. We didn't knock out a first down when we needed it the most to try to take as much drama out of it at the very end.”
Help on the D-line
With Abry Jones dealing with a sprained ankle, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham decided to play nose guards John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers together against Tennessee’s base offense. Both started.
“We thought we could take some base snaps off of (Jones) by playing those two guys in base,” Grantham said. “I think it was the right thing to do. Just trying to spread it out a little bit and find ways to reduce the number of plays those guys have to play. We’ll continue to do that as we move forward if we need that.”
Geathers had three tackles, including two for loss. Jenkins had one tackle.
Jones, who had one tackle against the Volunteers, was in a walking boot after practice Monday, but is expected to play Saturday.
Mitchell `just getting warmed up’ on offense
Receiver/cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, who didn’t play on defense Saturday but had four catches for 31 yards, said he practiced only on offense on Monday.
He will work again on offense today, Richt said on his radio show, and practice Wednesday on defense.
“Now that we’re back at full strength in that secondary we don’t need Malcolm to play quite as much defense as he was playing in the past,” Richt said. “He’s just getting warmed up on offense. …Where before he was defense and help where needed on offense. Now it’s offense and help where needed on defense.”
Rhett McGowan, who replaced Mitchell as punt returner during the Tennessee game after Mitchell let a punt roll to the 1-yard line, will handle the job this week.
“I know something has to be done,” Mitchell said. “Too many mistakes have been made. I’m not one to be blind to things that happen around me.”
Commings gets defensive honor
Senior cornerback Sanders Commings picked up his first SEC defensive player of the week honor on Monday.
The Augusta native shared the award with Ole Miss freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche.
Commings had two fourth-quarter interceptions Saturday to go along with five tackles.
This and that
Georgia is not making any of its offensive lineman available for interviews this week except for guard Chris Burnette. They were heavily requested this week by media members as the Bulldogs prepare to face Clowney and company this week.
Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox will call Saturday night’s game for ESPN.
Georgia put additional tickets on sale for the Nov. 3 homecoming game against Ole Miss from what was said to be returned from the visiting school. Tickets are $55 each.
Saturday’s Georgia captains: Commings, Aaron Murray, Kenarious Gates and Christian Robinson