AUBURN, Ala. — For the most part, Auburn sophomore right guard Chad Slade had only good things to say about Georgia junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
But Slade threw in four words that might end up on a bulletin board or two in Athens.
On how to deal with Georgia’s 3-4 defense, Slade said, “You’ve got to know how to identify each front and make each call. Jarvis Jones, you know that he’s going to be one of the strong keys of their defense. As long as you know where he’s at and what the front is, we should be all good.
“You’ve got to be able to get your hands on him, block him. He’s a good player, but you can stop him. It’s not that hard. You’ve just got to go out there and make the calls, go out there, execute the calls and know that he’s probably going to be on the side where the tackle will be made. He’s the type of player who will be one of the impact players.”
Many Georgia foes haven’t been able to say “it’s not that hard” to slow Jones, a consensus All-American from Carver High who transferred from USC after the 2009 season. Projected as one of the top picks in next spring’s NFL draft, Jones is one of two players nationally with five forced fumbles, ranks tied for sixth in the country with 15 tackles for loss and tied for ninth with 8.5 sacks.
Jones had two sacks in last year’s 45-7 demolition of the Tigers, who totaled fewer than 200 yards in the beatdown at Sanford Stadium.
Auburn has allowed 72 tackles for a loss, sixth-worst in the country.
Jones recently had 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles in Georgia’s 17-9 victory over Florida, catapulting the Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) into the driver’s seat for an SEC East championship and berth in the league title game.
Only one team stands between Georgia and that craved trip to Atlanta: Auburn (2-7, 0-6.) The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry renews Saturday at 7 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium on ESPN2.
“Having a lot of family from Georgia, having a cousin, Stacy, play in the Alabama-Georgia rivalry: I know how big it is,” said Slade, a lifelong Auburn fan. “I have some family that are Georgia fans and most of my family are Auburn fans because of Stacy. It’s just like the Iron Bowl.”
No fear: Georgia’s defense is a far cry from New Mexico State, so true freshman and Central-Phenix City product Jonathan Wallace can expect a tougher challenge in his second career start.
“It’s night and day,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “The bottom line is he’ll study it, and he’ll know where they’re coming from. The speed and intensity with which they blitz and pressure and move around will be completely different than last week.
“But he won’t go out there and be fearful in any way, shape or form.”
So young, so good: The SEC All-Freshman squad should be a doozy to craft.
From Georgia tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn commit turned Alabama tailback T.J. Yeldon, it’s been a year for youngsters to shine.
“I think this is a little bit of a unique year,” Chizik said. “Many young guys have come in and played very, very well. I think the level of skill from some of these guys coming out of high school in this league talent-wise is why the SEC is what it is.”
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Gurley’s 95.2 yards per game leads SEC running backs. Marshall (5-11, 216) has cooled off in the past four weeks with just 92 rushing yards on 33 carries, but Auburn is wary of both freshman threats.
“The two young running backs are very explosive,” Chizik said. “I think they’ve really complemented each other well because one guy doesn’t have to carry it 35 times a game. They’re a little bit of a change-up. One’s a little bit bigger than the other, but they’re both extremely fast.”
Injury report: Tight end C.J. Uzomah will likely remain out with a broken finger this Saturday, while backup quarterback Clint Moseley is slowly regaining movement with his ankle in practice.
Cornerback Chris Davis (concussion) is “still on the bubble”, per Chizik. As for guys with undisclosed injuries, defensive end Dee Ford is returning to full strength while defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker “has got a chance” to return from a three-game absence.