February 7, 2009

Determined to improve

From a statistical standpoint, Georgia safety Reshad Jones says he has a lot to feel good about regarding the season he had last year.

He's also aware that some fans don't necessarily agree.

Although Jones led the team with five interceptions and finished second on the Bulldogs with 76 tackles, some pointed to a series of missed plays by the Atlanta native, including the now infamous sideline "bump" that failed to knock Georgia Tech back Roddy Jones out of bounds en route to his 54-yard touchdown run that proved to be the difference in the Yellow Jackets' 45-42 win.

If that one play didn't raise the hackles of some Bulldog fans, when word got out that the redshirt sophomore was considering applying for the NFL Draft, many howled, claiming how in the world Jones could ever consider leaving at this stage in his career.

"I think I had a pretty good season stat-wise, but I also know I haven't played my best football yet," Jones said Thursday at Georgia's Butts-Mehre Building. "I know I haven't accomplished everything I want to yet. I want to be considered one of the top safeties in the country. That's my goal."

As for those who questioned his tackling ability or decision to considering turning pro:

"I can't worry about the fans," he said.

Jones admits his decision to leave for the NFL was a close call.

At one point, the former Washington High star said he was leaning toward joining Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Asher Allen and leave Georgia before his eligibility was up. But after some advice from his grandparents, he decided to come back for one more year.

"It was pretty close. But I sat down and talked about the pros and cons with my grandma and granddad who raise me and I felt I needed to mature," he said. "Plus, I didn't realize how close I was to getting my degree and that's something my grandma really wants me to have. All I need is 12 more classes so I can have my degree in December, so it just seemed right that I come back, get my degree and mature both mentally and physically at the same time."

Still, Jones insists the decision to return was his alone to make.

"It was my decision. I prayed about it a lot and talked with my grandparents," he said. "But in the end, I knew I had to come back and do whatever I could to help this team be successful."

With C.J. Byrd graduated, Jones said he's determined to take on more of a leadership role. While he won't be as vocal as former teammate Kelin Johnson, he hopes his actions on and off the field will give others plenty of reason to follow.

That includes redshirt freshmen like Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings, two players Jones expects to step up their play and contribute this fall.

"Rambo has been coming on strong and has been working really hard. Sanders has put on some weight and doing well," he said. "All the young guys that we brought in last year, I think all of them will help us this year."

Jones feels good about the steps others are taking as well.

Although the team just completed its first week of mat drills, Jones said he's already noticed a big change in the attitude of the players from this time last year.

"I'd definitely say the intensity is up," he said. "A lot of guys are working harder than they ever have since I've been here. We know we didn't have the kind of season we wanted to last year, and in my opinion everyone is doing what they have to in order to win more ball games."

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