Not lost or forgotten, but perhaps slightly overlooked in light of Jarvis Jones‚Äô defensive destruction of Missouri last Saturday night was the stellar play of sophomore linebacker Amarlo Herrera.
In No. 7 Georgia‚Äôs 41-20 victory at Missouri, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Herrera recorded a team-leading 10 tackles (two solo, eight assists), a tackle for lost yardage, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
Not a bad night‚Äôs work for the College Park native, who in 2011 received one of the Bulldogs‚Äô Newcomer of the Year awards.
But from Herrera‚Äôs viewpoint, there‚Äôs still room for improvement.
‚ÄúI was pretty happy, but I‚Äôm trying to get better each week, so that doesn‚Äôt satisfy me,‚Äù he said.
Herrera, who is among Southeastern Conference leaders in tackles with 15, doesn‚Äôt mind seeing Jones ‚Äî who was named the SEC‚Äôs Defensive Player of the Week for his work against Missouri ‚Äî getting the lion‚Äôs share of media interest.
‚ÄúI want Jarvis to get all the attention because I want him to win the Heisman,‚Äù Herrera said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got a better chance to win the Heisman than me this year, so I want him to get all the glory and all the attention. But he knows what we did and he knows his play allowed me to make the tackles I made and allowed everybody else to do what they did.‚Äù
Playing inside linebacker and on some special-teams squads, Herrera collected five tackles in Georgia‚Äôs season-opening victory over Buffalo. But a change in climate and environment helped him scale new career heights in Week Two.
‚ÄúOn my end, it was an energy thing,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúIn the first game, it was very humid and was a different type of weather than (it had been) the whole week. So running down on kickoffs a few times ‚Ä¶ I was a little drained. In Missouri, it was kind of cooler and we‚Äôd had better weather during the week ‚Äî it was kind of hot. So we could prepare better. (And a hostile environment) plays a big part because it‚Äôs different because there‚Äôs not so many of your fans there, so you‚Äôre like the villain and you‚Äôre always trying to upset the home crowd.‚Äù
A starter in eight of Georgia‚Äôs 14 games a year ago, Herrera recorded 37 tackles (including three for lost yards), a forced fumble and a pair of pass breakups. He‚Äôs not content with what he‚Äôs done thus far this season, but his coaches and teammates said they are well pleased with his production.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs doing very well,‚Äù said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team (2-0) will host Florida Atlantic (1-1) today. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs better against the run than the pass right now, but his development is getting better in that area. He‚Äôs a very sure tackler and he‚Äôs one of those guys that runs extremely hard to the ball. You get a lot of tackles when you play hard, and Amarlo‚Äôs been doing that. He‚Äôs fundamentally sound and he‚Äôs improved his strength and agility in the offseason. And it‚Äôs paying off for him.‚Äù
‚ÄúAmarlo comes to work every day and gives it 110 percent every day at practice,‚Äù sophomore linebacker Kosta Vavlas said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs very focused on his work ‚Äî he takes it seriously. Being one of the linebackers, I‚Äôve been absolutely excited to see what he‚Äôs done so far. It‚Äôs great to see one of your teammates and a guy from your section do so great, especially at such a young age. If he keeps working as hard as he has been, he‚Äôll go far.‚Äù
Senior nose guard John Jenkins, who posted five tackles against Missouri, said Herrera brings a very critical gift to Georgia‚Äôs defense.
‚ÄúHe brings trust to the table,‚Äù Jenkins said. ‚ÄúI trust Amarlo ‚Äî when I‚Äôm pushing a guy up front, I know he‚Äôs going to make the play. I don‚Äôt worry about what‚Äôs going on behind me. If I worry about what‚Äôs going on behind me, I‚Äôm not doing my job.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs making an identity for himself. Last year, he had a couple of big games, especially the Ole Miss game. This past week, in a big-time, big-game atmosphere, he was able to put together 10 tackles. The stats alone explain everything ‚Äî he‚Äôs a good player.‚Äù
In the coming weeks, defensive players who have been out of action for one reason or another will begin working their way back on to the field, a prospect that Herrera relishes.
‚ÄúWhen I get to thinking about it, it‚Äôs going to be crazy ‚Äî it‚Äôs going to be cra-zee,‚Äù he smiled.