ATLANTA — Clemson players had a two-hour break between team meetings in the hotel Saturday and walk-throughs at Bobby Dodd Stadium, to rest and get focused before the pregame routine got into full swing.
J.D. Davis and his twin brother, Judah, took full advantage of the extra time, meeting defensive coordinator Brent Venables over an hour before the designated time to review the game plan and polish up last-minute details ahead of second-ranked Clemson’s 49-21 victory over Georgia Tech.
“That’s who he’s been, and he has earned every opportunity,” Venables said of J.D. Davis. “He shows other guys that when you put the work in it shows through on Saturdays.”
Davis learned he would start against Georgia Tech (1-3, 0-2 ACC) earlier in the week when Kendall Joseph tweaked his groin and was put on rest for the game. The graduate linebacker once again took full advantage of his opportunity to make a splash in the lineup, leading Clemson (4-0, 1-0) in tackles with 10.
One of the things that Davis noticed in all of his preparation was how much Tech ran the ball toward the weak side in pregame warmups, and he knew he would get a lot of action early in the game, leading to a six-tackle first quarter for Davis.
The Palmetto State native had a strong feeling Saturday would be a successful day for him and that certainly proved to be the case as his defense held Georgia Tech, who entered the game leading the FBS in rushing yards per game, to just 146 yards on the ground.
“It felt awesome. Jesus told me I was going to have an opportunity today to play well and show people his glory,” Davis said. “I had a huge responsibility to play well for my team, Kendall and my family and I’m happy with the result.”
Venables could not have been more pleased with the way Davis filled Joseph’s shoes.
“J.D. was awesome and had a heck of a game. It’s not a surprise either because he works very hard,” Venables said. “Every time he has gotten an opportunity, he has responded very well and he was disruptive today.”
Disruptive is an understatement as Davis racked up 10 total tackles including eight solo tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack against Paul Johnson’s option attack.
Prior to Saturday, Davis had started just five games in his career and had yet to start a game in 2018 but he was not phased and proved to be prepared for the opportunity.
“I had to trust the process and I didn’t want to let anyone down today,” Davis said. “This is why you work for games like this and I can’t wait to do it again.”