ATHENS - Here's a factoid no one, not even Georgia players, would have predicted before the season: Four Bulldogs have more sacks than Jadeveon Clowney, and a fifth Bulldog has as many as the South Carolina star defensive end.
Part of the reason is the disappointing season by Clowney, who has just two sacks. (His teammate Kelcy Quarles has seven, benefiting from the double-teams Clowney has faced.) But it's also an indication of one of the few bright spots on Georgia's defense.
Georgia ranks second in the SEC with 23 sacks, trailing only Missouri. It's the best statistical ranking this year for the Bulldogs, who are actually ahead of last year's pace.
"Being second in the league, that's a good look," freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said. "With all of us being young, and being able to come back next year."
The credit for this goes to a spread-out sack attack, rather than the one star racking them up, as in previous years. Ray Drew leads with five sacks, Leonard Floyd has 4.5, Garrison Smith has four, Jordan Jenkins has three, and Ramik Wilson has two.
"In the past couple years it's always been that one guy: (Justin) Houston, Jarvis (Jones)," Jenkins said. "And now it's exploded to almost the whole defensive front. It's definitely crazy. And I know we OLBs, we know one of us is coming out on top in the end. It's just a matter of who is it."
Yes, there is still a friendly competition among the players to see who will finish in the lead. Before the season it was generally assumed it would be Jenkins, who had 5.5 last year as a freshman. But he had a slow start, while Floyd took center stage. Then Drew had a run of five sacks in three games, and then Smith jumped into the race with 2.5 sacks against Florida.
Jenkins and Floyd are outside linebackers, the spot where Houston and then Jones excelled in rushing the quarterback. But Drew and Smith are having more success from the defensive line spots - they play both end and nose - and even Wilson has got into the act from inside linebacker. And perhaps the most important sack of the season came from a safety, Corey Moore against Florida last Saturday.
"It shows that we can get after the quarterback," Floyd said. "All we have to do is fix other areas of need, and next year, if we continue to progress and get better every week, we should be a great defense."