ATLANTA — Sedrick Van Pran had a simple yet appropriate response to the question: What’s it like to block Jalen Carter?
“It sucks,” the Georgia offensive lineman joked.
Now, imagine trying to block the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder mauler with everything on the line, as it will be Saturday night in the Peach Bowl?
The word “nightmare” comes to mind.
It isn’t just Carter’s size, quickness or strength that makes him such a challenging matchup. It’s all of those attributes put together, the blend that drew coach Kirby Smart to say he reminds him of Jonathan Allen, the standout NFL defensive lineman he coached while at Alabama.
Carter can overpower offensive linemen. The native Floridian can sprint past them. He has an assortment of moves that make him hard to figure out.
“He does everything explosive,” Ohio State right guard Matthew Jones said.
Carter didn’t put up huge numbers as a junior, in part due to an ankle injury that slowed him down for a good portion of the season. He still notched 29 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles, and is feeling the best he has all year.
That’s bad news for Ohio State. Carter is a freak athlete. He played basketball in high school and not only can he still dunk, but also he can windmill jam. Georgia has used him as a blocking fullback on occasion in goal-line situations, taking advantage of his natural gifts. In the SEC Championship game, Carter picked up LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with one arm and held up the No. 1 with the other until the whistle blew. The play went viral.
“It all happened fast,” Carter said. “I spun around, and when I got up, I already had him locked in, so he came up with me. It was just an instant reaction, I just threw [the No. 1 sign] up.”
At media day Thursday, Carter drew the biggest crowd, a sign of the projected top draft pick’s bright future on NFL Sundays. Recently, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Carter has character issues. Carter was asked in a number of different ways of that criticism, but declined to respond in a negative fashion.
“I didn’t take it no kind of way,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can be.”
McShay, it should be noted, said he thought Carter could go second overall. Mel Kiper Jr., his colleague at ESPN, doesn’t see any downside in selecting Carter, projecting him as the No. 1 pick in his latest mock draft.
“I’ve still got two more games to prove that might be true,” Carter said, “and now it’s time to work and show the world what I can do.”