Ryan Black covered spring football practice in Athens for the AJC on Saturday and filed this report:
ATHENS — Jarvis Jones accomplished a lot last season. He was named to nearly every All-American team. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award. And he led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) for a Georgia team that won the Eastern Division.
But if Jones doesn’t replicate those stats and accolades in 2012, he said he will have failed to live up to his own lofty expectations.
“I can do better than I did last year,” Jones said after Georgia’s first full-pads session of spring practice Saturday. “I’ve definitely got to improve myself. . . . Anything less than what I did last year is a failure.”
Coming off such a dominant first season as a Bulldog after redshirting in 2010, Jones was asked if he feels he is now “the face” of Georgia’s defense. Always quick to deflect attention from himself, he dismissed that notion in favor of a team-oriented outlook.
“I’ve got a role to play. Everybody [does],” Jones said. “I think I’m one of the leaders on the team, and I’m definitely one of the players who my teammates listen to. We got a lot of leaders out there. We got Alec [Ogletree], Shawn Williams, Bacarri [Rambo]. . . . We don’t try to stand out among each other. We all push each other and try to get each other to get the ball rolling. That’s why I think we’re so close. We’re headed in the right direction to do some good things this year. We all believe in each other, and we communicate well. We just enjoy doing what we do.”
Just a few months ago, Jones, Williams and Rambo had to choose whether they would return to Georgia or depart for the NFL. Jones said he did not try to push Williams or Rambo in either direction.
“I just told them whatever decision they [made] —- if they decided to go pro — I’m always going to be in their corner and believe in them and wish the best for them,” Jones said. “But they came back, and we’re gonna take this thing up another level and try to be the best defense in the nation.”
Since spring practice opened on Tuesday, the defense has dominated the offense in drills. Jones pointed out that part of the reason is that the defense brought back more experienced players, “especially up front,” where the offensive line is trying to replace three starters.
“[The offense] is getting a bit frustrated, but that’s what we want,” Jones said. “We want to put them in situations where they can learn and they can improve, so down the road when the season starts, we’ll be a much better team.”
As good as the defense looks to be this fall, the Bulldogs are young at Jones’ outside linebacker position, since both Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew have started to work into the rotation at defensive end. Jones said he isn’t worried, though, since his younger teammates are picking up things “real quick.”
Besides, to meet his goal of eclipsing the season he had last year, Jones admits there is still a lot he needs to learn himself.
“Coaches are still putting new things in there, teaching me new things, teaching us as a defense new things,” he said. “Even when you get to the pros, I think you’ve still got a lot of room for improvement. It never stops.”
– Ryan Black, for the AJC