August 23, 2012

A special bond

The bond between linebacker Jarvis Jones and Todd Grantham is not necessarily unique in college sports.

Many players develop a special relationship that transcends the playing field, one where the level of respect reaches a level often reserved for fathers and sons.

According to Jones, the admiration he holds for his defensive coordinator is approaching those bounds.

"I respect Coach Grantham so much," Jones said. "He's why my game is where it's at right now."

Unless, you've bumped your head and been unconscious for the past 365 days, then you'll know Jones' game is in a pretty good place.

One year after earning All-American status following season which saw him collect 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, the 2011 finalist for the Butkus Award is primed for another huge campaign and on the preseason watch lists for basically every individual defensive honor.

Not surprisingly, Jones credits Grantham for it all, beginning with their first meeting when the former Carver standout was checking out the Bulldogs after being released from his scholarship from Southern Cal.

"My first visit here I met with Coach Grantham when they were deciding if they wanted to move me to outside linebacker. He showed me some highlights of Demarcus Ware and he said 'this is what Demarcus Ware does in practice every day,'" Jones recalled. "I always loved Demarcus Ware and the way he sacked the quarterback. Coach Grantham asked me if I liked to sack quarterbacks, and I said I love to do that. Since Day 1, we've been going over the same things, bettering my techniques, watching film … he's definitely made me a student of the game."

However, there's still plenty apparently to learn.

While he may have surprised some opponents with his breakout season of a season ago, this time, Grantham warns teams will likely be better prepared.

"He's got to understand that there are a lot of good coaches in this league, and they're going to say, 'All right, we're not going to let this guy wreck the game,'" Grantham said. "They're going to try to find ways to take him away. You've got to have answers for that."

Jones also credits Grantham for helping him to get the most out of his first year with the Bulldogs, one which saw him relegated to scout team duty following his transfer from Southern Cal.

"It (sitting out) made me mature a whole lot. It gave me time for my body to rest. Growing up I played a lot of travel basketball, I didn't even like football. I didn't play until I got to high school. I played my freshman year, but I hated it," Jones said. "But it gave my body a chance to rest and made me realize how much opportunity that I have. Some people don't ever have the chance to play football, and me having this second opportunity to play football. Every chance I get to step on this field, every chance I get to watch film, I need to give it my best and I really put emphasis on that."

As a result, Jones believes 2012 could be a special year.

"Two years ago I was on the sideline not playing, so it's definitely been a blessing to me. It's been a lot of hard work, but I've had a lot of great support. Coach Grantham took me in; a lot of players took me in and coached me up," Jones said. "Things are going well and I'm to the point where I'm a guy who has matured, I'm a guy who knows what's going on but every day I'm trying to better myself, better my technique, better myself against the run but at the same time better my teammates. I try to give them the energy to go hard every play, do everything they can so we can be competitive."