The senior defensive end wanted one more chance to suit up for the Bulldogs. That should come in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl against Nebraska more than 10 weeks after tearing tendons in his left ankle.
“I felt like it’s my senior year, and I missed so much, I always want to play one more game with the fellas,” Jones said Friday before Georgia held its third bowl practice at Celebration High School.
Jones, already cleared to play in the game, said he’s feeling about 75 to 85 percent healthy in practice as he returns from surgery similar to what tailback Richard Samuel had last season when he missed five games.
Jones is running and can cut “a little bit.
“It’s just trying to build up my confidence,” Jones said. “I get a little winded, but it’s nothing. It Will Pretty much snap back when it’s time to play.”
Jones could have taken it slower and skipped the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.
“Ever since he got hurt, his attitude was `I want to get back and I want to play,’” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He’s been working towards that the entire time. I really don’t know how much he’ll be able to play, what type of stamina he’ll have to be able to play. He wants to play. The plan is to play him, but as practices go on we’ll have a little better gauge what that might look like. Right now just the thought of him fighting like mad to get back on the field is a sign of his integrity and a sign of his love of the game and love of Georgia.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Jones “can really give us some depth and spot play and do some things like that if he continues to function at a rate that can help us.”
DL hire coming, but will Geathers wait?
Kwame Geathers, Georgia’s redshirt junior nose guard, doesn’t know if he will wait for a new defensive line hire before deciding whether to enter the NFL draft.
Rodney Garner, who left Georgia after 15 seasons to join Auburn’s staff, not only was Geathers’ position coach, but he was the closest of any assistant to him.
Grantham says he wants to hire a new defensive line coach soon after the bowl.
He said there are “quality candidates” in the mix.
“I’m really excited about some guys that have talked about being interested,” he said.
Whether they are coaches currently with college jobs or the NFL, Grantham didn’t want to say.
“It can be any of the above,” he said. “I’m still looking at several.”
Geathers said the loss of nose guard John Jenkins to academics doesn’t put added pressure on him to be productive with a heavier workload.
“No, it doesn’t put more stress on me,” he said. “I think I’m in good shape to be able to do it.”
The 6-foot-6 Geathers said his weight is now at 346 pounds. Mike Thornton and end Garrison Smith are available to fill in with Jenkins’ absence.
Grantham, who coaches the outside linebackers, is overseeing the defensive line now.
Players at both positions meet with Grantham. Graduate assistants Brandon Wheeling and Mike Kelly are stepping up their roles as Grantham goes between the two groups for part of practice.
“You’re only talking about roughly 15 to 20 minutes of the practice,” Grantham said. “Then from there, we go to our team stuff.”
Martinez views Georgia like Big Ten defenses
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was asked after Friday’s practice at Freedom High School what stands out most about Georgia’s defense.
“Nothing really,” he said. “It’s just another typical Big Ten defense. If we go out and play, we’ll be perfectly fine.”
Comparing Georgia to a Big Ten defense might seem like an insult to Bulldogs fans, but the Big Ten has three top 15 total defenses, just one fewer than the SEC.
Michigan State is No. 4, Michigan is No. 10 and Wisconsin is No. 13. Georgia is 27th nationally, sixth in the SEC.
“They’re very fast, they’re physical,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “They get hats to the football. We’ve got to play well. We’ve got to come ready to play, we’ve got to be physical with them and we’ve got to hang onto the football.”
From bowl prep to attending bowl game
A crew from a TV station in Roanoake, Va., was at Georgia’s practice to interview Grantham, who played for and coached at Virginia Tech.
Grantham and his family planned to go to the Russell Athletic Bowl Friday night to watch Virginia Tech play Rutgers in the same stadium where Tuesday’s game will be held.
Grantham coached at Virginia Tech with Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster and was a graduate assistant at the school at the same time as current offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring.
“I know a lot of guys on that staff,” Grantham said. “They’ve obviously got a special place in my heart because I kind of grew up there and went to school there.”
Former Georgia offensive lineman Brent Benedict is a starter for the Hokies.
This and that
Junior inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, projected by some as an NFL first-round draft pick, said he did not send in paperwork to get a projection from the NFL draft advisory committee. Ogletree is expected to enter the draft. Asked if there was a chance he might return, Ogletree said: “I’m here right now. That’s all I’m worried about. Once the game’s over, I’ll go home and talk to my family and make a decision.”
Capital One Bowl CEO Steve Hogan told CBSSports.com he’s expecting a crowd of 57,000 to 60,000 for the game.