Jones jolts new life into UGA defense

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones gets one of his four sacks against Florida.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones gets one of his four sacks against Florida.

ATHENS — Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has a simple formula for his success this season.

Relentless determination.

"I'm not fast. I'm not strong," Jones said. "I'm really not. People think I am, but I'm really not. I'm going to come at you the same way every time. I'm going to give you everything I've got every play, and if you can't hold it, well, somebody is going to have to give."

Jones became the fifth Bulldog in school history with four sacks during Georgia's 24-20 victory Saturday against Florida. He leads the Southeastern Conference with eight, tied for fifth in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Jones, a 6-foot-3, 241-pound sophomore, also had another tackle and forced a fumble as No. 18 Georgia (6-2, 5-1 SEC) won its sixth consecutive game.

"I think they have a few tendencies we picked up and we used it to our advantage," Jones said Monday. "Most of all, (hobbled Florida quarterback John) Brantley couldn't move. We knew he couldn't move, so we just picked up our pass rush and our defensive line really pushed the pocket and we got up field on him, and he couldn't run, so that really helped us out."

Georgia entered this season searching for someone to replace outside linebacker Justin Houston, who had 10 sacks in 2010 before forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Jones was moved from inside linebacker to outside and quickly adapted to his new position.

He's second on the team with 44 tackles, has an SEC-leading 14 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hurries, and is one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation's top linebacker.

Jones' success has helped Georgia rise to seventh nationally in total defense, giving up just 267 yards a game.

"Jarvis has kind of taken off obviously, putting pressure on the quarterback," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "You lose a guy like Justin Houston, you hope a guy can step in there and start making those kinds of plays. Jarvis has done that."

Jones traveled a tumultuous road on his way to this point in his career.

He admitted he hated football as a freshman at Carver High in Columbus, Ga., but played anyway. He almost quit to focus on basketball, and was talked into staying on the football team, where he played tight end.

Jones was moved to linebacker as a junior and helped Carver win a state title. As a senior, he signed with Southern California, where he played in the first eight games of his career before spraining his neck in 2009.

Southern Cal's medical staff didn't clear him for spring practice in 2010, so Jones asked for a release from his scholarship, transferred to Georgia and redshirted last fall.

"I'm so glad and blessed that coach Richt gave me a second opportunity," Jones said. "He welcomed me in. The guys welcomed me in. They were so glad for me when I got here. From Day 1, they showed love to me like a brother."

Jones then faced a possible NCAA-mandated suspension in August, after his eligibility was reviewed in connection with allegedly receiving benefits from an administrator in his hometown's parks and recreation department, but he was cleared to play.

He promptly started Georgia's opener against Boise State, recording a season-high 11 tackles in the loss, and has flourished in his new position.

"I love outside linebacker. It's unbelievable," Jones said. "It's fun to be out here. A lot of times, you're one-on-one, and all linebackers should win all one-on-one situations."