John Jenkins admits he’s never quite sure if he’s fully completing his job during games on Saturdays.
It’s not until after film review on Sunday that Jenkins, Georgia’s 6-foot-3, 340-pound nose tackle, sees he’s taking care of his duty — commanding double teams from opposing offensive linemen.
“There’s bodies everywhere,” Jenkins said. “I just try to beat the man in front of me.”
Jenkins was one of the Bulldogs’ most heralded recruits in the 2011 signing class. A junior college transfer, the Meriden, Conn., native was thought of as guy who could make an immediate impact.
But his emergence took time. His first start came against Tennessee in the sixth game of the season. Since then, he’s been a mainstay in the lineup.
“I think he’s getting more confident and more comfortable in the scheme,” said defensive line coach Rodney Garner. “I think he’s getting a better understanding of the defense. I think that’s showing in his style of play.”
Nose tackles like Jenkins aren’t always judged on a statistical basis. Drawing double teams is the objective. In doing so, Jenkins added a career-best four tackles against Georgia Tech last week.
“I’ve been trying my best not to let anybody down, including myself,” Jenkins said. “I won’t say I’m the man up front, but I do say I’m still trying to help the team win.”
His understanding of the defense has allowed him to play faster — and he’s still learning.
He frequently discusses his technique with fellow nose tackle Kwame Geathers. Junior defensive end Abry Jones has been teaching Jenkins technical aspects of the defense. Center Ben Jones, who faces Jenkins on a daily basis in practice, goes over what went right and wrong after drills.
And of course, he still hears plenty from Garner on a daily basis.
“Coach Garner is still critiquing me on even smaller things to try to become a better player,” Jenkins said. “Before it was big things because I didn’t understand anything. Now its small, small things.”
A BALANCED LSU OFFENSE: LSU’s running backs have received most of the media attention in the buildup for Saturday’s SEC title game.
The Tigers have four tailbacks with at least six rushing touchdowns this season as the offense relies on a power rushing attack geared to wear defenses down.
However, buried amid the deep rushing statistics is a talented group of receivers that play off opposing defense’s tendency to cheat up to stop the run.
“They have some talented guys over there at receiver,” Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said. “That’s all I’ve been saying.”
Junior Rueben Randle has a team-high 48 receptions, 889 yards and eight touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr. has 36 catches. And Russell Shepard, who has played in only nine games due to a three-game suspension to start the season, has four touchdown grabs.
“They’ll obviously mix in the play-action pass with the run game,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Everyone has a job to do on every play. You’ve got to understand where your eyes need to be. You’ve got to be disciplined in your assignments and go play.”
DROPPING THE NICKNAME: While some Georgia players have referred to LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu by his nickname — the “Honey Badger” — the Bulldogs receiving corps refuses to acknowledge the moniker.
Despite reporters asking questions about the “Honey Badger,” redshirt freshman Michael Bennett repeatedly called Mathieu only by his first and last name earlier in the week.
When asked if he used the nickname any, Bennett simply said, “No.”
Freshman Malcolm Mitchell followed suit.
“They’re just names,” Mitchell said when pressed. “I think they’re just regular guys who know how to play the game.”
For others on the team, the nickname, given to Mathieu because of his tenacious play, has been a talking point.
It’s Georgia’s receivers that have to directly play against Mathieu, who has four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and three total touchdowns this year.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Bennett said.