True Freshman Center making and impact

ATHENS - Snapping a football is one of the toughest and most under appreciated duties of any center.

On Saturday, Georgia fans got to see Nick Jones learn on the job. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound true freshman started his first game for the No. 6 Bulldogs, and, by the accounts of his coaches and teammates, played a pretty solid game in a 26-7 win over Auburn.

There was only one obvious weak spot -- Jones' snaps from the shotgun formation, which could be generously described as quick.

"He was just shooting missiles at (quarterback David Greene)," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who described Jones as "one of the nicest kids you'll meet."

Greene also described the snaps in ballistic terms.

"Ol' Nick was throwing BBs at me, wasn't he?" Greene asked. "He just caught me off guard a few times."

Two of Jones' snaps ricocheted off the hands of Greene, who had to scramble to keep the ball in Georgia's possession. The first came on second-and-goal from the 20-yard line on the Bulldogs' first drive. The ball came straight at Greene's head and then bounced off his hands and into the air, forcing the quarterback to run toward the line of scrimmage and leap for the ball.

"I didn't think that ball was ever going to come down, and, when it did come down, I got murdered," Greene said.

Jones, whose head is up before releases the ball on snaps, didn't see the play but knew it didn't turn out good.

"All I heard was the crowd say, 'Ooh,' and I was like, 'Oh, man,'" he said. "I knew I did something wrong."

The second bad snap came when the outcome of the game had been decided, and Georgia tried to convert a fourth down rather than kick a field goal and run up the score. That time, Greene merely had to take a few steps back and fall on the ball.

"It's a good thing David is 6-foot-4 or (Auburn) might have scooped up a few and scored," Richt said.

Jones has had trouble with his shotgun snap all season and said he worried during warmups and the game that he might fire one over Greene's head.

"I didn't want to show it, but I was nervous," he said. "That was going through my head the whole game. I think I did pretty good, except for that one snap. Well, I guess it was two."

The gaffes earned Jones some ribbing from his teammates on the sideline. Jones' linemates threatened to give him Bartley Miller's former nickname -- "The Rifle" -- which Miller earned the same way when he was a freshman, by firing snaps over quarterbacks' heads while learning to snap.

"That's the tendency, to snap it as hard as you can to get off the ball as quick as you can," offensive guard Josh Brock said. "It's very, very hard."

Jones started Saturday due to an injury to guard Bartley Miller. Regular center Russ Tanner slid over to guard, and Jones started at center. The Bulldogs also rotated in guard Fernando Velasco with Tanner going back to the center spot. They will use the same rotation this weekend against Kentucky, Richt said.

Jones rated his performance "a five or six" on a scale of 10. Obviously, Georgia coaches were pleased with it because he played 55 plays against the Tigers. His previous high in a game was 13.

"He played well, especially for his first time out," offensive line coach Neil Callaway said.

Jones was a guard at Bowdon High School and had no experience snapping the ball. Georgia coaches told him during his recruitment that he might play center, but the move wasn't official until he came to campus, he said.

At first, he struggled because he wasn't snapping the ball hard enough. Richt called his early attempts "duds."

"And now I snap it kind of hard," Jones said. "I have to find a medium between there."

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