With the Georgia Bulldogs set square off against the Kentucky Wildcats, we thought we’d look at the best player on either team, but may not be playing in this contest. That would be Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. The Dawgs’ top defender has been one of the best defensive players in all of college football when healthy, and is a consensus top-10 NFL draft prospect. Some analysts have Jones pegged as the top draft-eligible prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft.
His abilities as a pass rushing linebacker are some of the best seen by an SEC backer since David Pollack racked up 12 in 2004. In just five of a possible six games this season, he ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (5.5) and ranks fourth in the FBS in forced fumbles (3) to go with nine quarterback hurries.
He’s played primarily as an OLB in Georgia’s 3-4 defense, allowing him to roam all over the line of scrimmage, making it very hard for offensive lines to coordinate how they are going to effectively block him.
Jones is however currently injured and did not practice on Wednesday, the normal days for game-walkthroughs for teams who are traveling for a Saturday game. He has now missed every workout since he suffered a right ankle injury in the Dawgs’ loss to South Carolina October 6. At the very least, if he does play Saturday night, he’ll be very rusty and not at full strength.
If Jones doesn’t suit up, freshman Jordan Jenkins will take his place. He’s been productive as well, racking up three sacks this year, but the loss of Jones will be very significant for not just Georgia’s defense, but will hopefully help Kentucky establish a more open offense this weekend. Joker Phillips has yet to allow Jalen Whitlow to establish a deep-passing game and stretch out opposing defenses. Had Jones played this weekend, he would be able to consecutively pressure Whitlow and not allow any 5-7 step dropbacks to get set for taking deep strikes down the field. Now with Jones potentially out, the option is at least there to allow Whitlow to air it out and stretch out the Dawgs’ defense, something they’ll have to do to prevent Georgia from loading up the box as Arkansas did last week and stop the Cats’ running game.