UGA safety Jones opts for NFL Draft

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

ATHENS -- Georgia junior safety Reshad Jones said Tuesday he decided to enter the NFL draft after becoming convinced he is "physically and mentally" ready for the big step.

Jones said the move by coach Mark Richt to fire defensive coordinator Willie Martinez also contributed to his decision to bypass his senior season.

"It played a little part in my decision," Jones said. "Coach Martinez was a great coach. I feel like he's one of my biggest father figures in my life. He just helped me grow as a man, not only on the football field."

Richt is continuing his search to replace Martinez.

Jones led Georgia with four interceptions this season, including one he returned 59 yards to set up a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 44-20 Independence Bowl victory over Texas A&M.

He was second on the Bulldogs with 73 tackles this season and has 12 career interceptions. He had seven tackles and an interception in Georgia's win over Georgia Tech.

"With the bowl game, I would definitely say I feel like I'm leaving on the right foot, on a high note," Jones told The Associated Press.

Jones wouldn't reveal where he has been advised he can expect to be drafted.

"I won't go into detail about what it was, but it was good enough for me to make my decision to come out early," he said.

Jones (6-2, 215) had 27 starts and appeared in 39 games in his three seasons.

"We've certainly enjoyed having Reshad and appreciate all he's done for the Bulldogs during his career," Richt said. "He's played hard every time out and did an outstanding job in our secondary. I'm hopeful this decision works out in his best interest and we wish him nothing but the very best."

Linebacker Rennie Curran also is considering entering the draft as a junior.