In college football you can never sleep on a freshman, and linebacker James DeLoach has now witnessed that firsthand.
DeLoach, an outside linebacker from Millen, found out just how good freshman Leonard Floyd was when he essentially became Floyd’s backup by the end of fall camp. Fellow linebacker Jordan Jenkins saw it too, but said he realizes it’s just part of the job in the SEC.
“No one wants to lose their spot and no one likes not having a spot, so you’ve got guys always competing to get better than the players ahead of them, but at the end of the day we still all love each other to death,” Jenkins said.
DeLoach found himself on the losing end of the deal, but it’s football, and come game day the best players will play whether they’re seniors or freshmen.
“It shows you’ve got a lot of great guys working and sometimes it’s that one little effort you have to give to either secure a spot or get in,” Jenkins said. “Just having that competition there makes us want to get better.”
Getting better is something senior Garrison Smith focuses on every week, so he says he enjoys the competitions created by all the young talent on Georgia’s defense.
“We’ve got guys at every position that can play,” Smith said. “We’ve got young guys who are waiting their turn. That brings the best out of everybody. It’s all a friendly competition that makes everybody better.”
However, today’s game against North Texas is a good opportunity for Georgia to get some of its younger players in. While some backups have had a chance to play this season, many are still looking to get playing time in a live game. While DeLoach has seen plenty of time at special teams this season, Jenkins says he’s hungry to get out there and show he can impact a game on defense.
“I think he’s definitely really excited. I know he’s been working hard,” Jenkins said. “I think in this game he’s going to take advantage of any chance he can get on the field. I think he’s going to try his best to make plays whenever he’s on the field and show he deserves to get in and be a playmaker.”
Many of these veterans have been where DeLoach currently sits on the rotation, but Smith says this is his chance to make a push toward the top of the depth chart.
“It would be big. It’s always exciting just to be able to go out there and play,” Smith said. “When you go out and show you can play it makes the coaches trust you more. As time goes on you get to play more, and more and more, so that’s how you’ve got to look at it.”
That’s exactly how DeLoach said he is viewing the opportunity. He said he’ll be ready to go if his name is called.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity to get in and play,” DeLoach said. “I feel like I can come in and play in any big game. This is just another game. We just need to go out there and play our hardest.”
DeLoach has been playing on special teams, a job he has used as a means of preparing to play defense consistently.
“It is a great experience,” DeLoach said. “I just use special teams to fuel my fire on defense.”
DeLoach said he understands how talented Georgia’s defense is. That’s why it won’t be easy to earn a top spot. With a linebacker corps loaded with young talent, anyone could play on a given down.
“The coaches have been telling us we have the most talent and depth we’ve had on defense in a while, so we just use that depth and rotate everyone in,” DeLoach said. “Everyone plays their hardest, so whoever shows they can do it gets a chance to play.”
Whether it’s giving it his all in practice or carrying himself in a respectable fashion around campus, DeLoach is taking every day as a step to becoming a great Bulldog linebacker.
“I try to work as hard as I can everyday and try to make myself better as a person on and off the field,” DeLoach said.