It's become sort of cliched for college football fans observing the NFL draft to point out how many of the top selections were not highly recruited coming out of high school. It makes for a great story, but it's generally specious. The fact is the odds of a five star high school all-star becoming a first round draft pick are way, way higher than the odds for the two star kid whose only offers were from Central Montana Tech and Greater Ocilla Community College. The exceptions do not disprove this rule.
Jarvis Jones is, in some respects, the rule. He was the top player in the state of Georgia for the class of 2010 coming out of Columbus's Carver High, and it was a crushing defeat for Bulldog fans when he chose to head west to play for Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. It didn't make things any better when he saw the field for one of the most talent-laden collegiate defenses in recent history as a true freshman.
But life has a way of deviating from the rules sometimes. It turned out that Carroll was not as entrenched in L.A. as many believed, and also that the folks at the Southern Cal athletic brain trust were dumb enough to hire Lane Kiffin to replace him. In addition to being one of the most overrated football coaching minds of the twenty-first century, Kiffin is also notorious for his recruiting zeal. And as SEC fans saw during his brief and craptacular tenure in Knoxville, Kiffin has no compunction about promising recruits that he'll find spots for "his guys" at the expense of the guys he finds wherever he arrives.
Jarvis Jones coincidentally had suffered a neck injury near the end of that promising freshman season. Can I prove that Kiffin shuffled him to the door? No. But since leaving SoCal Jones has been cleared of any lingering spinal injuries by a parade of world reknowned orthopedists and legions of team doctors. Maybe they're all wrong. But I somewhat doubt it.
Kiffykins' loss was decidedly our gain. After a redshirt season in which he was the most terribly frightening scout team linebacker imaginable, Jones wreaked havoc across the SEC for two solid seasons. It would not be inaccurate to say that the Georgia football program owes its stellar 2012 campaign to the SacMan. At times he simply took over the game, demonstrating himself functionally unblockable by college offensive linemen and hapless running backs. At 6'3 and 240 pounds Jones is the prototype pass rushing 3-4 linebacker, too fast for 320 pound tackles, too big to be chipped by tailbacks, and strong enough to hold his own on the edge of the defense.
He's also a charismatic team leader. In discussing their recruitments, numerous current Bulldogs have mentioned Jones as a key reason why they're in Athens. He can assure instate blue chippers that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the country. He's also been effusively grateful to Mark Richt and his staff for giving hima shot to come home when he left Southern Cal. In the process, he's become one of the most popular UGA athletes in recent memory.
Jones isn't a perfect prospect. There's no such thing. He sometimes doesn't play with great leverage, standing upright and letting blockers into his body. Jarvis also doesn't have the most diverse repertoire of pass rush moves, sometimes simply relying on his speed to overwhelm opponents. But the guy led the nation in sacks, forced fumbles and tackles for loss in 2012. That kind of hat trick doesn't happen by accident. Jarvis Jones was a hard working, reliable, productive player at the college level and I expect he will be equally successful in the pros. I hate that he left, but I'm glad that he'll have the chance to do great things in Pittsburgh. Congrats, Steel City fans. You got a great one. Until later . . .