UGA’s ‘un-noticed’ star on end

semerson@macon.comAugust 20, 2012 

ATHENS -- Abry Jones does not speak in empty platitudes. A little personal glory, he freely admits, would be a nice thing.

“I kind of want to leave here with some accolades,” Jones said. “I want to leave my mark at Georgia.”

He’s running out of time.

But his coaches say he has the ability to do it.

Everyone around the Georgia football team, including Jones, understands why he gets overlooked: the stats. The defensive end from Warner Robins enters his senior year with just five career sacks. Four of them came last year, which is pretty good, but when a team has two other All-Americans on defense, and practically all the starters -- and some backups -- are NFL prospects, Jones can get lost in the shuffle.

“He’s a guy that because of maybe other people getting the press, that he’s gotten unnoticed a little bit,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “But from a coaching standpoint and my standpoint, I understand his value to our team.”

Jones started every game last year for the Bulldogs, who finished as the nation’s fifth-ranked defense. Jones was a big part of that, not only because he chipped in 47 tackles, seven of them for loss, but because he is one of the most dependable players.

“He’s a leader by example, meaning by the way he plays,” Grantham said. “He’s not always the most flamboyant guy, but he works hard, he prepares, he’s ready to play.”

But Jones is aiming for more than just kind words.

“My good year last year, it was kind of hard to be noticed because Jarvis (Jones) had his year, and Shawn (Williams) and all them,” he said. “When you’ve got a guy getting sacks all the time, a guy getting interceptions, a hard-hitting safety, I got no problem with (their attention), because I know if I was watching a football game that’s what I’d be watching. … I’m just pretty much playing my part, and if I don’t get the accolades I get, hopefully teams in the NFL can see what I can do and hopefully give me a shot.”

Jones is aiming to be the first Northside alum to make it to the NFL since Chansi Stuckey, a 2007 seventh-round pick of the New York Jets. Kyle Moore, also defensive end and a former Houston County standout, is the only current Warner Robins resident in the NFL, with Buffalo.

After last season, Jones submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory board, as did many of his teammates. He said he received a third-round grade but didn’t seriously consider leaving.

Jones is one of the more socially popular members of the defense, because of a humorous streak. While most teammates say they’re ready to be done with the preseason and play some real games, Jones said he’s soaking it in.

“Enjoying the senior-year moments and stuff,,” Jones said. “I think in other years I probably wanted to rush it. But now I want to take my time, live in the moment.”

There is reason to believe Jones’ stats could see a jump this year. The presence, and increased experience, of nose tackle John Jenkins, who was an SEC rookie last year, could draw several blockers and open up lanes for Jones.

“I got caught up quite a few times last year trying to get John in the right place,” Jones said. “Ended up getting smacked in the side of the head.”

When Jones arrived at Georgia in 2009, the Bulldogs were struggling mightily on defense. He figured he could make an immediate impact and eventually rack up plenty of sacks as an edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme.

Then Grantham came aboard with his 3-4 scheme, where a defensive end can often get swallowed up. Jones went sack-less in 2010, and the run defense was barely average.

The second year of the 3-4 was a different story. Now the Bulldogs are hoping to ride their defense to an SEC or even BCS championship -- and Jones realizes his final chance to make an imprint at Georgia has arrived.

“It’s a bit of good and bad,” Jones said. “It’s good to see my dreams come that close, but I think starting thinking of some of the personal goals, it really seems this is my last chance to get them. I keep that in focus.”

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