ATHENS -- Former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw taught a freshman Jordan Jenkins a very important lesson about defending a read-option offense in 2012.
“You can’t let trying to make a play, trying to just take somebody else’s player that’s not yours come into your head,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was assigned the to cover Shaw on a play in that game. When he thought Shaw handed off the ball, Jenkins tried to make a play and take out the running back. Jenkins was wrong.
“I was excited to make the play, trying to take out the running back, and Connor Shaw went running 20 yards down field,” Jenkins said. “I got an earful from (then-defensive coordinator Todd) Grantham. Since that day, I’ve learned to play it the right way.”
Never miss a local story.
That little bit of knowledge will come in handy for Jenkins and the rest of the Georgia defense Saturday against Tennessee junior quarterback Josh Dobbs, one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the SEC.
Dobbs has been inconsistent this year both throwing and running the ball. But his 250 rushing yards are in the top half of all SEC players, and he has three rushing touchdowns on top of it. Against Florida, the No. 15 rushing defense in the country, Dobbs rushed for 136 yards.
With pass catchers like Marquez North, Josh Malone and tight end Ethan Wolf, Dobbs has enough weapons to be dangerous to opposing defenses.
“He is very good, and even this year, he’s been more dynamic, in my opinion,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “If you judge him just as a passer, he’s really outstanding. If you judge him just as an athletic quarterback, he’s a threat. But when you put it all together, you’ve got one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in our league, and he’s got confidence. He’s got a bunch of big games under his belt.”
What really helps Dobbs be difficult to account for is the Tennessee zone-read offense in which Dobbs can decide to hand off the ball or pull the ball back based on how the defense reacts to the play.
This style of offense is especially dangerous for teams that have both dual-threat quarterbacks and a solid running game. With the backfield combination of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, Tennessee definitely has that.
“I’ve always liked watching Hurd,” Jenkins said. “I called him being one of the future great running backs last year, and I feel like he gets better with every game. It definitely makes it more difficult knowing that you’ve got a guy who can build that amount of speed and has power with him.”
“We wanted (Kamara),” Richt said. “He’s a very talented guy, got good speed, good agility, great ball skills.”
The build of the Tennessee backfield is actually very similar to Alabama’s, with Hurd being a large running back at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and Kamara being a speed back who can catch the ball well out of the backfield. In that sense, Georgia might have at least a little extra preparation for the Tennessee offense.
“I do feel like us going against the running backs we did last week helps us out because Kamara’s a shifty cat. And Hurd, he’s a fast guy who will also run you over,” Jenkins said. “I feel like that’ll definitely help us out.”
But it’s Dobbs who is the big wrinkle in the offense. As senior linebacker Jake Ganus pointed out, the only quarterback Georgia has played this season who can compare to Dobbs is South Carolina quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, who only played a fraction of Georgia’s matchup with the Gamecocks earlier in the season.
Because a defense has to account for the threat of him rushing as well as throwing the ball, it changes the dynamic of the way Georgia approaches its defensive gameplan.
It all comes back to that lesson of discipline that Jenkins learned three years ago.
“Any time you have a running quarterback, it makes everything a little tougher because you have to respect him in that aspect,” Ganus said. “Even in passes, you’ve got to be aware of where he’s at and if he’s outside of the pocket or not. We’ve just got to do a great of trying to keep him contained and just focusing, locking in on him.”