ATHENS -- As Georgia deals with the usual bumps and bruises of preseason practice, two notable players were unexpectedly absent from Tuesday’s early morning practice in linebackers Leonard Floyd and Tim Kimbrough.
But neither player’s absence was related to injury.
Senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins said that he had “no idea” why Floyd wasn’t at practice but said he talked to him Monday night and that Floyd was not hurt. Sophomore Lorenzo Carter said he’d seen Floyd as early as Tuesday morning.
“I just ate breakfast with him (Tuesday) morning,” Carter said.
As for Kimbrough, linebacker Jake Ganus provided a vague update, saying Kimbrough wasn’t hurt but didn’t provide much else.
“Tim’s fine,” Ganus said. “I’m not allowed to comment on where he was at.”
Georgia outside linebacker coach Kevin Sherrer wasn’t happy with his unit Tuesday.
So he let the players know it. Loudly.
“Shoot, he may have woke up on the wrong side of the bed; you never know,” Jenkins said. “At the end of the day, we just weren’t going, we weren’t being as fundamentally sound as we could’ve been.”
Of course, that’s just normal around the team’s practice fields.
“He’s not always getting on us; he’s just passionate, wants to see us get better, and he’s not going to hold nothing back,” Jenkins said. “He’s 100 percent 24/7.”
The passion, as Jenkins calls it, isn’t limited to Sherrer, especially when it comes to the defensive coaches. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is notoriously vocal at practice, and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has his own reputation.
“They’re all nasty,” Jenkins said. “Nobody’s going to mess with Coach Rocker. At the end of the day when Coach Rocker’s out there, even now, nobody’s going to mess with Rocker because people respect him, people respect what he did on the field, and they know he’s a player, and that’s what we want people to do.”
In the first year under Pruitt, the defense didn’t always have that tenacious demeanor about it that the coaches carry proudly. But players feel that year two will be different. John Atkins put it best.
“(We’re) more mean,” Atkins said.
In year two, it’s easier for the team to be mean. The first year was full of new scheme and a lot of uncertainty. Players can already see a difference as they go through their second preseason with Pruitt.
“We really know the defense; we’re not really questioning before the snap if we have this play or we have that play, and we really want people to really respect us,” Jenkins said. “If you want people to respect us, you’ve got to be nasty, and you’ve got to be mean.”
Although the Bulldogs return a lot of their 2014 defensive starters, they still will be relying on some freshmen to play important roles this season.
Maybe one of the most hyped players in the group is Trenton Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 307-pound defensive tackle. Thompson has been working with the first team during the preseason and has a legitimate chance to replace Mike Thornton as the starting nose tackle.
“Trent, he’s physical, like he knows the plays, and he goes wherever, what he do is whatever Coach asks him, and he does it 100 percent,” Atkins said. “Trent’s going to be a real special kid.”
The other position hit hardest by departures -- inside linebacker -- has a chance to see Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith play important roles in the replacement of Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera.
“Roquan and Natrez, I think are doing a great job, and Juwan Taylor, can’t forget him,” senior inside linebacker Jake Ganus said. “Those three guys, they’re learning. It’s a pretty tough defense to come in and learn like they are.”
Then there’s outside linebacker D’Andre Walker, who has stiff competition from Carter, Jenkins and Floyd but has impressed Jenkins with his tenacity.
“D’Andre Walker, he’s really came and he’s really coming on as a player. He’s a guy that will run through a brick wall if you tell him to and ask, ‘How many times do you want me to run through the brick wall?’ ” Jenkins said. “He’s really learning the playbook, and I feel like if he spends a lot more extra time into it he can definitely be a great pass rusher.”