"He may be the best defensive player in American."
That's Georgia coach Mark Richt on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. And after watching the redshirt junior's dominant display of athleticism, relentlessness and ferocity in a 41-20 win over Missouri, I absolutely agree.
There isn't a better defender roaming the grass on Saturdays.
Jones single-handedly demolished the Tigers with eight tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and an interception. He played a major role in every pivotal defensive play and showcased a polished game that has scouts drooling over the reigning SEC sack leader. This is quite a story for a guy whose playing career was in jeopardy just three years ago.
Jones was originally enrolled at USC, but a serious neck injury prematurely ended his freshman season. When USC doctors wouldn't clear Jones for spring practice, he decided to head back to his home state and transfer to Georgia, whose doctors provided medical clearance. After sitting out the 2010 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Jones racked up 70 tackles, including 19 1/2 tackles for loss and 13 1/2 sacks in 2011.
At 6-foot-3, 241 pounds, Jones is an explosive edge rusher with remarkable first-step quickness and burst. He routinely blows past offensive tackles with a slippery "dip-and-rip" speed rush move, but also shows a complete repertoire of moves to get to the quarterback. From a crafty spin move to a hard inside slant following an initial speed rush, Jones gives offensive tackles fits with his agility and strength. Most impressively, Jones complements exceptional movement skills with a high-revving motor that overwhelms opponents.
As I broke down Jones' game, I was blown away by his dogged approach as a pass rusher. He refuses to quit after being stonewalled at the line, and this extra effort routinely leads to garbage sacks at the end of broken plays. Against Missouri, Jones' relentlessness resulted in a sack and an interception when the game was still hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, he made the plays that helped decide the game's outcome.
That's why scouts are so excited about Jones' prospects as a potential pro. He is the kind of difference maker along the front seven every defensive coordinator covets. His combination of skills and energy are certain to produce a stream of disruptive plays on the next level.
Word on the street
Scouts searching for the next Jason Pierre-Paul have descended upon BYU's campus to take a long look at senior Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound linebacker has drawn comparisons to the New York Giants' star due to his speed, athleticism and burst, despite having only three seasons of organized football under his belt. Ansah, who hails from Ghana, originally arrived in Provo, Utah as a track athlete (Ansah reportedly clocked 21.9 in the 200 meters) before making his way to the football team in 2010.
While he remains a raw, unpolished player at this point, an NFC South scout described Ansah as an "athletic freak" with unlimited upside. If he can continue to put flashes of dominance on tape over the course of the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ansah enjoy a late run up the charts heading into the 2013 NFL Draft.
B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida
Scouts are certainly paying attention to Daniels after his phenomenal performance against Nevada. Daniels passed for 363 yards with three touchdowns, including a 56-yarder to Andre Davis for the game-winning score. Most impressively, Daniels rallied the Golden Bulls back from an 11-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining in the game. Quarterbacks with poise under pressure are valued at a premium. Daniels is working his way back into the mix in scouting circles.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
If you're searching for an explanation to UCLA's surprising 2-0 start, look no further than Franklin. He has been absolutely sensational as the workhorse in the Bruins' backfield, tallying 431 rushing yards on 41 carries with three touchdowns. Franklin really has given the offense a jolt with his explosive running skills on the perimeter. Against Nebraska, he finished with 217 rushing yards on 26 attempts, with six runs of 10-plus yards. With Franklin capable of breaking off big gains at any moment, the Bruins' offense suddenly packs a punch that is knocking out opponents.
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Klein is not the best prototypical quarterback in college football, but there isn't a better playmaker at the position. Klein is an outstanding runner with the size and strength to overpower defenders, yet he shows a deft touch as a play-action passer. When he is on his game, Klein is an unstoppable force in the backfield, and he displayed his dynamic game in the Wildcats' 52-13 shellacking of Miami. Klein rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts, while completing nine of 11 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Although those numbers aren't eye-popping on the surface, they reflect Klein's all-around game and explain why he garners comparisons to Tim Tebow as an explosive playmaker.
Steve Greer, LB, Virginia
It's not surprising to see Greer wreaking havoc all over the field based on his highly productive career at Virginia. He has been among the ACC's top tacklers in each of the past two seasons and is an absolute monster in the middle of the Cavaliers' defense. In Saturday's win over Penn State, he was a tackling machine with 15 total stops, two sacks and several bang-bang hits that set the tone for the game. While scouts are still trying to determine whether Greer has the athleticism to be a three-down linebacker as a pro, there are no questions about his instincts, toughness and production following his impressive performance this weekend.
Sam Ficken, K, Penn State
Most folks say no single player is ever responsible for a loss in football, but Penn State's kicker certainly put this belief to the test in a 17-16 loss at Virginia. Ficken had an extra point blocked and missed four makeable field goals, including a 42-yarder in the game's waning seconds. Although the Nittany Lions made a host of other mistakes that contributed to this defeat, the inability to score at least three points whenever they reached the red zone played a critical role.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
The departure of Russell Wilson put the burden of carrying the Badgers offense squarely on the shoulders of Ball. Although he has thrived as a bell-cow back in the past, Ball was unable to deliver big results against an Oregon State defense that has been porous against the run in recent years. Granted, quarterback Danny O'Brien's suspect performance in the pocket allowed the Beavers to extensively utilize eight- and nine-man boxes, but Ball is supposed to be a premier runner capable of finding creases against any defense.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Swope was regarded as one of the top receivers in college football heading into this season, but his disappointing SEC debut against Florida will lead some to question his ability to thrive as a No. 1 receiver in college football's toughest conference. Swope finished with only five receptions for 16 yards and didn't make a significant contribution to an offense that rolled up nearly 350 yards. With Texas A&M slated to take on more heavyweights in the coming weeks, the senior must step up his game to salvage his reputation as a big-time playmaker.