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August 8, 2008Sophomore free safety Reshad Jones isn't into making outlandish predictions. But there's one thing he does promise.
"Most likely, if the ball's in the air, you're going to see me around the ball," Jones told UGASports. "I just like making plays. I feel I have a knack for the ball."
No doubt Georgia coaches and fans hope for the same. One of the most highly-recruited defensive backs to sign with Georgia in recent years, Rivals.com rated Jones as the country's top-ranked safety his senior year in 2005 at Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High. Early projections suggested that Jones would become the latest in a recent line of great Bulldog safeties, a la Greg Blue, Sean Jones and Thomas Davis.
He's about ready to get the chance to prove it. After spending most of last fall as the top backup to Kelin Johnson, Jones is ready to step into the starting role.
Is he ready? Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez believes that he is.
"He knows more than he did last year. He's able to run our defense a lot better because he's got that year's experience and coming back through spring and again fall," Martinez said. "He looks like a guy who's had team experience and he's showing more consistency. He's still got some ways to go but he's done a good job for the first four practices."
Jones acknowledges that replacing Johnson won't be easy. As a two-year starter at safety, Johnson was one of the team's unquestioned leaders. He was also one of the most vocal. Johnson was long a favorite of the media for his glib comments and quotes. He was also talkative on the field, but more often than not was able to back up his words with actions. "I feel I'm ready to fill his shoes and make the same kind of impact that he did in the secondary," Jones said. "He can talk. He made noise with his mouth but he made plays, too."
Martinez just wants Jones to be himself. "He's different. He's a different personality. I want them to be themselves," Martinez said. "But Reshad has to be vocal on the field because he makes all our calls and checks and that's really what I want. Reshad is doing a good job, he really is."
Jones is certainly a different looking person than when he first arrived on campus three years ago. The Atlanta native said he weighed just 165 pounds when he first got to Athens. Now, at 6-2 and 215, Jones looks every bit the image of a potential All-SEC safety, an honor many would not be surprised to see him achieve. After he collected 57 tackles with two interceptions as a freshman, who knows?
Martinez obviously thinks the potential is there. Named the Most Improved Defensive Back at the close of spring practice, Jones enjoyed one of his finest games in the Sugar Bowl when he collected six tackles, including one for a loss in the Bulldogs' 41-10 win over Hawaii. A seven-tackle showing in the win over Florida also offered glimpse of Jones' prowess.
"I'm fortunate to be blessed with athleticism, but I think there are other reasons why I'm ready to have a good year," Jones said. "Basically, I'm just better prepared. I got a lot of experience last year. Last year, I didn't know anything. I didn't know the whole playbook and I didn't feel as comfortable as I do now. I was really blessed to get the experience that I had last year."
Jones said that his mission is clear. "In life, preparation meets opportunity and I'd say I'm very prepared," Jones said. "Not only do I think I'm prepared more, but I'm also physically and mentally ready to play at this level."