ATHENS -- The first time Jarvis Jones name came to the attention of Abry Jones -- no relation -- was when their high school teams collided.
I just remember hearing his name throughout the night, said Abry Jones, whose Northside High School beat Jarvis Carver team. Then when it was over, I shook his hands and talked to him. And thats when he really hadnt committed yet, so I was trying to talk him into coming to Georgia.
It didnt work, as Jones signed with Southern California. But he transferred back home after one year and, seven games into his Bulldogs career, the sophomore has quietly emerged as one of best defensive players in the SEC.
The Columbus native was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, bestowed on the nations top linebacker. More importantly, hes a big reason why Georgias defense is ranked sixth in the nation.
Hes kind of a quiet guy that works hard, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. I think hes a complete outside linebacker, both rushing and dropping. I think hes got a high ceiling as far as where he can go.
The big story on offense this year for Georgia (5-2 overall, 4-1 in the SEC) was that freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell, also a Carver graduate, has lived up to his hype. The story on defense could be that Jones is doing the same.
For a year, coaches talked about how good Jones looked in practice. But they couldnt use him, as he was sitting out after transferring from Southern California.
So Jones had to make his hay on the scout team, where he apparently did.
He just worked so hard pushing those other guys on the other side of the ball, fellow linebacker Christian Robinson said. When you get thrown into it and youve been going up against Clint Boling (now in the NFL) and guys like that, if youve worked hard, its going to show. Its really paying off.
Fortunately for Georgia, which had a vacancy with the graduation of high-impact outside linebacker and regular-season SEC sack leader Justin Houston, Jones has filled an important role.
The difference with Jones seems to be the type of impact hes having. While Houston did it with sacks and tackles for a loss, Jones is more of an all-field player, equally effective against the pass and rush.
Jones still manages to lead the team in sacks (4), tackles for loss (10) and quarterback hurries (16). But his ability to get to the ball and draw blockers is also a big reason Georgia has improved against the run.
Hes one of the guys that when you watch, he really pursues to the ball, hustles, and he plays the game the way you want to play it, Grantham said.
By that last part, Grantham undoubtedly means no loafs, as in plays that a defender takes it easy on. Asked whether hes pointed out a loaf to Jones in the film room, Grantham smiled and said yes, but added that it was very minimal compared to others.
He doesnt take plays off, Robinson said. And thats the great thing about him, because you always know hes running. He was the first guy in spring ball that coach pointed out and said: Look, this is the type of mentality you want to have.
Robinson remembers Jones falling down on a play, then getting up and still making the tackle.
Its just that type of attitude that I think everybody has really started to buy into, Robinson said.
Jones hasnt played up his role yet. He has declined mid-week interview requests, and thus the chance to talk about his season.
Everyone else seems happy to extol his virtues.
He had a little bit of name recognition coming in, playing a little bit at Southern Cal, and I think everyone knew who he was, and we talked about him in the spring, head coach Mark Richt said. You can sense when coaches are anxious about a guy getting in the game that hes probably a pretty good football player. So I think all of those things came together for him.