ATHENS, Ga. — James DeLoach might not be a household name in college football but he keeps in touch with someone who made a name for himself playing outside linebacker at Georgia.
DeLoach talks occasionally to Jarvis Jones, the former Bulldog who led the nation in sacks last season and is expected to be an NFL first-round draft pick in April.
“He tells me to keep pushing myself and keep working hard,” said DeLoach, a sophomore.
Jones’ departure has opened up a starting spot for the Bulldogs. DeLoach is working at first-team strongside linebacker and could join another member of the 2012 signing class, Jordan Jenkins, as starters at outside linebacker.
“It’s going to be a big spring to prove to the coaches that I can be out there with the best of them as a starter,” DeLoach said.
Brandon Burrows, who’s moved from inside linebacker, is also working at the position called the “SAM” and coaches have said that sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons would get work at the position, too. Senior Chase Vasser, who has five career starts, is out this spring after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum.
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound DeLoach played sparingly last season, mostly on special teams. He had four tackles last season – two against Georgia Tech when he lined up at defensive end. Coaches have talked up his potential and DeLoach believes he brings “toughness and the ability to set the edge, not let a tight end get a hold of me and manhandle me.”
DeLoach certainly looks the part.
“He really looks good,” coach Mark Richt said. “He’s in tremendous condition; he’s a great athlete. It’s going to be interesting to see how he can do.”
After two practices, inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said DeLoach has “come off the edge really fast. We were watching film and him and Jordan were looking really good. … They’re making the ball bounce to us so we can make more tackles.”
DeLoach was an under-the-radar three-star recruit from Jenkins County High School, a Class A school in Millen.
His teammate Johnathan Taylor, now a redshirt freshman nose guard, was the more heralded prospect, but Georgia coaches were high on DeLoach, too.
“I think he’s a really big, athletic guy,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I’ve been really impressed with him in workouts. … We’re going to play him at SAM linebacker and let him be a physical presence there. I’ve been really pleased with his progress, his movements. He was in the meeting room last year so he kind of understands all the things, he just hasn’t done it as much as other people. … He’s a guy that we’ll be looking for him to be a contributor for us in the fall.”
Just how DeLoach envisioned it growing up.
“It’s every kids dream to play D1 ball and be able to start here at the university that means so much to me. I’m just going to keep working hard every day, keep pushing myself.”