Simply put, Jones might be the most dynamic and disruptive defender in all of college football. Trying to contain the 6-foot-3, 241-pounder tops Tennessee's "to-do" list for Saturday's showdown in Athens. The Vols must account for him on every play.
"Every play or he'll wreck your game," Vol offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "You'll come home losing. Our kids know that. Our staff knows that. Everybody knows that. If we don't account for him we're in big trouble."
After describing Jones as "an incredible player," Pittman was asked what separates him from other elite linebackers.
"He's athletic," the Vol aide replied. "He finishes plays. He plays hard. He's got it. He's got great balance. He seems to understand everything about his position. He understands the whole scheme. He's a very smart player, very instinctive."
Originally from Columbus, Ga., Jones signed with Southern Cal following high school and saw action as a true freshman for the Trojans in 2009. When USC was hit with NCAA sanctions, he switched to Georgia and sat out the 2010 season as a transfer.
Returning to his home state must have been a good tonic because Jones blossomed into a star as a Bulldog sophomore last fall. He recorded a four-sack game against arch-rival Florida and finished the season with 70 stops. A relentless pass rusher, he registered 13.5 sacks and 49 hurries, earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America and the Walter Camp Foundation among others.
He has picked up in 2012 where he left off in 2011. Through four games Jones has 24 stops, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 13 hurries, 3 fumbles forced, 2 pass breakups and a 21-yard interception return.
Jones is such a disruptive force that he prompts some opposing offenses to adapt their blocking schemes to try and neutralize him.
"You scheme knowing where he is, I'll say that," Pittman said. "Now they do a great job because they move him around; he's all over the place. We've got to figure out as fast as we can where they're going to put him this particular week."
One key to neutralizing Jones' brilliance as a pass rusher is to make Georgia respect Tennessee's ground game. The Vol rushing attack showed signs of life last weekend against Akron, averaging 5.0 per carry en route to 232 rushing yards. Pittman was pleased but not satisfied with the run-blocking of his offensive line.
"I think we're getting a little more physical as things go on, which means we're getting a little more comfortable with each other," he said. "We still have to get better on short-yardage. There are still some things we have to improve on but, for the most part, I think we're getting better across the board."
Pittman relies on his five starters, plus backups Alex Bullard and Marcus Jackson. All need to bring their A-games if the Vols are to hang with fifth-ranked Georgia, which is 4-0 and a 14-point favorite.
"We played seven guys (against Akron), and I think all seven played pretty well," Pittman said. "I think our depth is getting a little better and I think we're getting a little more confident. We're going to need it going into this week."