Two weeks ago, even the most in-depth discussion of the Southeastern Conference's top pass rushers would not have included him. The undersized Missouri defensive lineman didn't have one sack at the time, and had made just 12 tackles.
This week, however, you can bet Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has taken notice. Sam has recorded two consecutive three-sack games against Arkansas State and Vanderbilt, giving him an SEC-high six this season. Arkansas' Chris Smith also has six. Sam has picked up SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors for both games, and is the only player in college football with two three-sack games (14 others have done it once each).
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Sam now ranks fifth in the entire NCAA in sacks per game (1.2) and is just two sacks behind national leader Vic Beasley of Clemson.
"You see what happens when you get on a roll and your expectation level changes a little bit," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "He is a really good athlete. ... He runs really, really well, and I think his determination and his passion have been remarkable. He's always played hard, but that's a difference in him between this year and a year ago, as he's matured. When he goes, he goes (all out). So much of pass rushing is determination and persevering, and battling. I think he's matured a lot in that way."
Sam lists at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, although Pinkel said he is closer to 6-3. At his size, he would be more likely to make an NFL team as a linebacker than a defensive lineman.
Don't be surprised if Sam posts another big game Saturday, given that Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray could be throwing more passes than normal in the likely absence of running back Todd Gurley, and the certain absence of UGA's No. 2 back, Keith Marshall. As well, Georgia's new starting running back, J.J. Green, may have a hard time helping with pass protection at just 5-9 and 183 pounds.