Alabama Native Jones Faces Stiff Challenge

ATHENS – Corvey Irvin was riding a bus with some of his Georgia teammates when he got his first real introduction to freshman center Ben Jones.

Somewhere along the ride, Jones spotted a dead grasshopper on the ground, Irvin said. The lineman picked it up, bit it in half and swallowed.

"I knew he was kind of crazy when he did that," Irvin said.

Crazy may not be exactly the right word, but Georgia's version of Ozzy Osbourne certainly isn't typical.

Other than his size, the 300-pound lineman from Bibb County, Ala. looks unassuming enough, but Jones' simple country appearance doesn't tell the whole story. He has a personality that could be described as anything from friendly to nasty to slightly nuts.

Line coach Stacy Searels doesn't allow freshmen linemen to talk to the media – a relic of Searels' days with Nick Saban at LSU – so few people outside of his teammates have gotten to know Jones' real personality. Despite his peculiar dining habits, however, most of the Bulldogs think pretty highly of him.

"The way he talks, he's from Alabama, and he's so country," Irvin said. "He's a very good guy, a great character, and he gets along with everybody. But when it's time to go to work, he goes to work."

Jones' work will be cut out for him this week, and his crazy streak might be his best asset.

After getting the first start of his career last Saturday at Arizona State, Jones will face the SEC's version of a wrecking ball this week.

Jones will match up with Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody, a 6-foot-5 monster who weighs in at anywhere from 360 to more than 400 pounds, depending on who you ask.

"He is a beast," head coach Mark Richt said. "Nobody has blocked him. He is a problem."

Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford said Jones' job for Saturday is akin to moving a bus.

Richt lauded Cody's combination of athleticism and size then was reminded Georgia was matching Jones against him on the line.

"We got a true freshman on him?" Richt said. "That's not good."

In truth, no one provides a particularly good matchup against Cody, but Jones may actually be better equipped for the job than most.

Some centers might look at the behemoth with three sacks in four games lining up across from them and shrink from the challenge. Jones, on the other hand, is just crazy enough to be excited about it.

"I believe he's going to come out Saturday and that's going to amp him up," Irvin said. "Coach Searels is probably in his head telling him, 'Look what you've got in front of you, look what you've got to prepare for.' "

Jones never backs down from a challenge, Irvin said, so Saturday's game won't intimidate the true freshman.

In the weight room, Irvin said Jones delights in trying to lift more weight than his teammates. He gets under the bar and gives it his best shot, whether he can do it or not.

"He's a tough kid," Stafford said. "I think you could put Warren Sapp in front of him, and he's say, ‘Let's go.' "

Off the field, Jones is the prototypical country boy from Alabama – humble, sincere and polite.

At the line of scrimmage, however, opponents see the other side of him. The same tenacity he brings to the weight room shows up on the field. Jones is mean and nasty and focused on whipping the man across from him.

"It's not nasty like dirty, but he just gets after it," guard Chris Davis said, "and that's what you need to be a good lineman."

Jones' attitude and ability were impressive enough to earn the trust of the Georgia coaching staff during fall camp. In the Bulldogs' opener, he got his first taste of action with Georgia backed against its own goal line. During the next two weeks, his playing time increased, and against Arizona State last week, he earned his first start and played every snap.

"First start for that little, chubby freshman out of Alabama," Richt said. "He's just a great kid, he's tough as nails, and he did a great job."

So far, Jones has treated his whirlwind rise up the depth chart in a manner befitting his Alabama upbringing. He has taken it all in stride, the same way he's approaching the matchup with the Crimson Tide's 400-pound sack machine.

That's just his personality, Irvin said. Jones is simple, he's focused, and he's unaware of just how intimidated he's supposed to be. Or maybe he really is crazy.

"He's just one of them old country boys," Davis said. "Nothing really affects him. You're going to get his best every day, and I'm looking forward to this game to see what he can do."

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