On a Georgia defense that boasts the Southeastern Conference‚Äôs top sack producer and its interception leader, Abry Jones isn’t exactly considered a marquee player on the unit.
That doesn‚Äôt mean what the defensive end has done this year isn‚Äôt drawing notice by those who break down the film and those that play alongside him.
‚ÄúHe plays awesome,‚Äù Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. ‚ÄúThose guys up front really don‚Äôt get the credit they deserve because everybody doesn‚Äôt see what they do. As coaches, we obviously see it.‚Äù
Jones is tied for second on the team with four sacks, is third with seven tackles for loss and 18 quarterback hurries and is seventh with 36 tackles.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve really opened up my game and am really staying in and helping on the run a lot more,‚Äù said Jones, who was named Monday as SEC co-defensive lineman of the week after making four tackles, including one and a half for loss in a 19-10 win against Kentucky on Saturday that clinched the SEC¬†East. ‚ÄúI like the fact that I‚Äôve become a guy that my team can really rely on.‚Äù
The 6-foot-3, 309-pound Jones had 16 of his 34 tackles last year against Georgia Tech‚Äôs triple-option.
He isn’t overly excited about going up against the Yellow Jackets offense again Saturday.
‚ÄúNot really,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been going up against it since high school. I don‚Äôt really like it, but hey if I have a game like I did last year I don‚Äôt mind going up against it.‚Äù
Jones was rated as a national top-10 defensive tackle prospect coming out of Northside High School in Warner Robins. He played as a backup in 2009 to seniors Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins and Kade Weston.
Now in his second year as an end in Grantham‚Äôs 3-4 defense, the junior is part of a unit that ranks fourth in the nation in total defense and second in rushing defense.
‚ÄúI know I need to step up and make plays when they‚Äôre supposed to be made,‚Äù Jones said. ‚ÄúI think I‚Äôm doing a great job of stopping the run, which is really the main job as a defensive lineman. I‚Äôm pretty happy with my job.‚Äù
While outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (12 ¬Ω sacks) and safety Bacarri Rambo (seven interceptions) are underclassmen who have fielded questions about the NFL draft, Jones was surprised to hear that he showed up as the No. 5 junior defensive end prospect on a list by ESPN‚Äôs Mel Kiper.
‚ÄúI feel like he‚Äôs one of the best in the country at his position,‚Äù Rambo said. ‚ÄúI never knew he had it in him, but he‚Äôs playing very good.‚Äù
Said Grantham: ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got initial quickness. He‚Äôs stout. He holds the point. He‚Äôs able to get off blocks and he can give you some pass rush.‚Äù
His run stopping ability will be what‚Äôs needed most against Georgia Tech‚Äôs run-heavy offense. That could mean another double digit tackle day considering that defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson also had 16 stops last year against the Yellow Jackets.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve just got to do what I‚Äôve been doing all year, just pretty much playing good assignment football with this defense and just hustle to the ball,‚Äù Jones said. ‚ÄúMaybe I‚Äôll get lucky again and fall on a couple.‚Äù