One of the most feared hitters in the SEC

ATHENS -- No one considered Thomas Davis a big hitter in high school. No one considered him much at all really.

Georgia had to beat out Grambling and Savannah State for the player who has turned into one of the most feared defenders in the SEC. The Bulldogs were the only major college program to offer him a scholarship, Thomas Davis said.

Asked why more people didn't recruit Davis seriously in high school, Bulldog defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder responded with wide eyes and an exaggerated shrug.

"I went and watched him in basketball practice, and I watched him 10 minutes and said, 'Jeez,'" VanGorder said. "I was on my phone right then saying, 'This guy has got some special things.' He can't shoot, but he could play defense."

He still can. Davis, a redshirt sophomore, leads the No. 8 Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) with 51 tackles and is third in the SEC in solo tackles per game at 7.2. Plus, he's developed into one of the hardest hitters in the league, already notching memorable shots on Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst -- "That was my favorite," said Georgia receiver Fred Gibson, who has made Davis promise never to hit him in practice. -- and Alabama quarterback Spencer Pennington, among others.

"He's a very fast and physical football player," Coach Mark Richt said. "He makes big hits, and usually when he hits somebody, he is right down the middle of them."

In the last three games, Davis has 31 tackles and three sacks. The Shellman native opened preseason practice as Georgia's starting strong side linebacker but was moved to safety before the first game due to Kentrell Curry's leg injury. He still plays linebacker in Georgia's dime package, and it's from that spot that he most often blitzes.

Davis is getting used to plenty of attention. Against Alabama, against whom he recorded two sacks, he said at least three offensive linemen were pointing at him prior to the snap on every play.

"You have to be aware of where he is because they will move him around," Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said. "He's just an exceptional player who's always around the ball."

More troublesome for opponents is how fast he's moving when he gets there. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, he's become the Bulldog most likely to send someone to the sidelines. Davis' hitting ability comes not just from his size and speed but from his athletic ability and positioning, VanGorder said.

"He's just exceptionally flexible. He bends really well at the point of attack. You have to really be able to uncoil and be explosive. Most of that comes from your hip area. You have to explode out of your hips, and he's just exceptional at that," VanGorder said. "Some guys just have that. Some guys finish a tackle different than others. (Big hitters) play with speed through contact."

Those kind of hits get a quarterback's attention quickly, Richt said.

"It affects the quarterback there is no doubt," said Richt, a former quarterback. "You get hit real hard a few times and you just don't seem to play as well after that. You just tend to feel like, 'When's it coming again?'"

Georgia quarterback David Greene admits he has mixed feelings when he sees Davis hit an opposing quarterback.

"When Thomas is coming through making kill shots," Greene said. "I wouldn't say I feel bad, but I have some sympathy for the guy."

"We're just glad he's on our team," Richt said.

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