ATHENS -- David Pollack got a text message the other day from Mark Richt. It was about Jarvis Jones and something dear to Pollack.
Hes gonna break your record, wrote Richt, the Georgia head coach.
That certainly seems possible. And Pollack wouldnt mind at all.
I hope he does it, Pollack, the former Georgia defensive end and now an ESPN commentator, said Wednesday. I hope he has a great season, and I hope hes a high draft pick. Hes a great kid. Records are gonna fall.
This is when it is pointed out that Jones isnt just a sack specialist -- as his interception return at Missouri on Saturday can attest. But he also had two sacks in that game, bringing his season total to 3.5 through just two games and 16 in just two seasons at Georgia.
So what makes him so good at it? How is it that Jones keeps finding ways to disrupt the backfield -- even while being double-blocked, and game-planned against?
Thats the question that continues to baffle SEC defensive coordinators.
Hes so explosive, said Pollack, who holds Georgias single-season sack record with 14. He gets off that ball quick. Really, really quick first step. Hes really a sensational athlete. Thats part of it. But he plays really hard. Thats one thing I really admire about him.
That burst upon the snap is also what Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham talked about. But like Pollack, Grantham said its only part of what makes Jones effective. Fundamentals are also on his side.
He is very explosive off the ball, Grantham said. But he has really improved his hand play to create separation to get around those guys at the end and finish. Thats probably the biggest improvement Ive seen from him.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was asked Wednesday what advice he would have for Georgias future opponents.
Block better. And get more people around him, Pinkel said. They did a great job with him because they move him all over the field too. Hes on the wide side of the field; hes short side of the field; hes at linebacker sometimes. So its not like you can sit there and say he comes from this spot every time.
Pinkel said his offense had success moving the pocket or having quarterback James Franklin on the run to get away from Jones. It worked for much of the first half, and a few drives in the second half.
But in the end Jones was too much. He was credited with five hits on Franklin, and even more pressures.
Hes a great player, he had a great game, Pinkel said. We certainly had offensive line injuries, that didnt help us, but even if we didnt hes just a great, great player. You can keep more people in to block him, but youve gotta find out where hes at.
That has been the key for Grantham and Jones the past two years -- moving Jones around to put him in best position to make plays.
Technically, Jones is an outside linebacker. But his position before the snap varies, as Pinkel alluded. He usually is coming from the edge, in a position to rush the quarterback, but even then he alternates between hand on the ground or standing up. Occasionally he starts in the middle of the field and rushes. Sometimes he stays back in coverage.
Some plays I was just out there moving around, Jones said of the Missouri game. They didnt know what I was doing. I just made it look like I was doing something different. So I was just moving, by the time he was ready to snap the ball I got in place.
A lot of this is to account for the attention hes getting from blockers. Pollack recalls that after his sophomore year, when he set the sack record, he was double-blocked and isolated away from a lot of plays. His sack total went down to 7.5 for his junior year.
For me it became really frustrating. I wanted to make an impact so bad and I felt like I couldnt because theres constant pressure on you, Pollack said. Its real, its definitely real. Once you become a marked man, you see more double-teams and more line protections come your way.
But Jones is being helped by the presence of nose tackle John Jenkins, who like Jones has a chance to be a high pick in the NFL draft. The Bulldogs also have Cornelius Washington and Abry Jones as defensive ends, a pair that combined for nine sacks last year.
But ultimately, the consensus is Jones sheer will and determination will be enough.
Ive always had a feeling he had a high ceiling, said Grantham, whose arrival at Georgia three years ago coincided with Jones transfer from Southern California. Hes really instinctive, hes really relentless on the field. And he has above average play strength for his size against tackles and things like that. And you combine that with his athletic ability and youve got a guy that can make a lot of plays.