Jones fits well with Grantham
Transfer linebacker, defensive coordinator developing mutual admiration society
ATHENS, Ga. -- Todd Grantham saw this coming as soon as Jarvis Jones lined up with Georgia's defense.
After watching Jones wreak havoc against Georgia's starting offense for a season as a scout team linebacker -- a status that accompanied his transfer from Southern Cal -- the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator's eyes would light up when discussing how Jones could become a star in his 3-4 scheme.
The move also brought Jones to the position group that Grantham himself coaches, allowing him to interact with Jones each day in practice.
"Transferring from a different school, learning a different scheme, he's kind of taken him under his wing to teach him everything," Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings said. "I think he knew what kind of ability Jarvis had."
That ability has been on full display this season, with Jones playing a leading role in Grantham's reconstruction of Georgia's maligned defense. The redshirt sophomore recently was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award -- given each year to the top linebacker in college football -- and leads the SEC with eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
And the scary thing is that he is only beginning to tap into his potential.
"He's getting there. He's still a young player," Grantham said. "I think the thing with him is he is a very complete linebacker. Sometimes guys can rush the passer, sometimes guys can cover. His whole thing is he can do both. He can cover a tight end, he can cover a back, he can drop in coverage and yet when you ask him to rush, he's got some pass-rush skills. So he is a very complete outside backer."
Jones did not begin playing linebacker until his junior year of high school and had never played outside linebacker until this season, so performances like his four-sack effort against Florida are more a product of talent, instincts and effort than a comprehensive understanding of his new position.
That will come with experience and, Jones said, further tutelage under his defensive coordinator and position coach.
"I think I've got the best coach in football right now. He knows how to get his players in position to make plays, find tendencies, formations, all that," Jones said. "So going into the game, we know all that kind of stuff. We know what they run in formations, we know their tendencies in their formations, so that really helps you. Once you know that stuff it really helps you to play full speed the whole game."
The admiration seems to be mutual.
Grantham said it would be accurate to say he already has developed a special bond with his budding star at linebacker.
"I know how much he wants to be a good player; I kind of see the things he needs to work on and just try to develop him and try to take it step by step, because he's a very talented guy, and he has a high ceiling to continue to improve," Grantham said. "And I think the more he improves, the more we can expand maybe doing a thing or two with him, which will allow us to be more productive down the stretch."
Coach Grantham is just so passionate about the game. You could almost put our cleats and pads on him and he'd go out there and do the same thing.” -- Georgia LB Jarvis Jones
Perhaps the most significant playmaker in Grantham's 3-4 is the weakside linebacker, and that's the role Jones has filled for the last month. A less noticeable responsibility is the way Grantham relies on Jones to be an energetic leader for the defense.
"I think me and Coach Grantham have got a connection," Jones said. "We see [eye-to-eye] with each other. I think I get the boat rolling for us a lot, and when that time comes and guys need to make a play, he comes to me, and I go to my teammates and we all make it happen."
Listening to Jones marvel about the way Grantham dissects opposing offensive schemes in preparing a game plan, it's apparent that the Bulldogs linebacker respects his coach's football acumen. But it's the intense spirit that Grantham brings to his instruction that particularly resonates with Jones and motivates him to perform.
"He knows how to develop his players. It's unbelievable," Jones said. "He spends so much time with us, just trying to make us better. Coach Grantham is just so passionate about the game. You could almost put our cleats and pads on him and he'd go out there and do the same thing. But I love him so much. He cares about us and wants the best for us. He teaches us well."
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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