ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s administration hasn’t decided whether to mount a full-fledged campaign to promote outside linebacker Jarvis Jones for the Heisman Trophy, but if Jones keeps performing like he did in last Saturday’s win against Missouri, he might not need much help.
“It is a little early,” admitted Georgia’s longtime sports information director Claude Felton. “A lot of times your ‘campaign’ sometimes can almost be conducted by someone other than the school. ESPN GameDay, Fox or CBS studio shows -- I think those types of things have significant impact, what those people’s opinions are who are on TV every week.
“I don’t know if they’ve started it yet, but pretty soon they’re going to start where every week it’s ‘Who’s in the Heisman race?’ So I think those kinds of things can be just as significant as anything the school might do.”
And the highlights don’t lie. Jones has won multiple SEC and national weekly awards after leading Georgia to a 41-20 win against Missouri with nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and five quarterback pressures.
It was enough to help Jones vault to sixth in the weekly straw poll of 11 Heisman voters on Heismanpundit.com, although the site’s operator also opined that Jones does not have a realistic chance to win the award because he is a defense-only player.
No defense-only player has ever won the Heisman -- Pittsburgh defensive lineman Hugh Green came closest by finishing as runner-up behind South Carolina’s George Rogers and ahead of Georgia’s Herschel Walker in 1980 -- although some have impacted the race.
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh finished fourth in 2009, for instance.
Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997 became the only defensive player to win, although he also contributed on offense and returned kicks. And LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu took fifth last year while playing cornerback and returning punts.
But Felton believes several factors can work in Jones’ favor if he continues to dominate and the Bulldogs keep winning. Key among them, Georgia is sure to be on television almost every single weekend and the Heisman winner almost always comes from a highly successful team.
“If you went anywhere in the country and mentioned Suh’s name or Tyrann Mathieu, the guy at LSU, nobody in the country is going to say, ‘Well who’s that?’ So in the case of Jarvis Jones, name recognition is not a problem with him,” Felton said. “I think anybody that covers college football knows the name Jarvis Jones. The other part of that is being on TV, doing well on TV, and No. 3 is you’d better be on a good team.”
Vasser’s return: Just as cornerback Sanders Commings addressed reporters for the first time since his January arrest at Tuesday’s weekly media luncheon, so too did outside linebacker Chase Vasser after the Bulldogs’ evening practice.
Vasser and Commings return to the lineup this week after serving two-game suspensions over arrests -- Commings for a domestic dispute with his girlfriend and Vasser for DUI.
Vasser completed spring practice as the Bulldogs’ starting strongside linebacker -- in large part because of his pass-coverage skills -- and he hopes to reclaim that starting spot.
“I proved myself to where I’ve gotten to now, all the way up to camp from spring. The coaches are really pleased with what I’ve been doing and now I’ve just got to come back and show that I’m not rusty,” Vasser said. “Today I know [defensive coordinator Todd] Grantham had a little fun getting at me. But my goal is to come back and pretty much punish the man in front of me. I haven’t really been taking a lot of reps, so I know when I come back, I want to be fresh, so I had fun today.”
Vasser called his May arrest “a rude awakening” that taught him a valuable lesson about responsibility.
“It’s definitely an eye-opener and I’ll definitely learn from it,” he said. “In a way I’m glad it happened because I’ve learned from my mistakes and it’s always good to learn from your mistakes.”
McClendon proud of Samuel’s play: Senior Richard Samuel made what by all accounts was one of the biggest plays in the Missouri game when he stopped Tigers punter Trey Barrow well short of a first down on a fake punt.
The assistant coach responsible for the punt-return unit, Bryan McClendon -- also Samuel’s position coach at running back -- admitted that he felt like a proud parent when Samuel came up big.
“I told Richard I thought it was the biggest play in the game at that point,” said McClendon, who credited Josh Harvey-Clemons and Marc Deas for also being in position to possibly stop Barrow short of a first down. “They came out there and did a great job and he made the play for us. He really did. He made the play for us and probably made the play of the game.”
Samuel will be the Bulldogs’ special teams captain for Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic -- along with receiver Marlon Brown, nose guard John Jenkins and Jones -- celebrating his work in an area that was often costly for Georgia last season.
“It was good for them to see the importance of what that play meant to the team,” McClendon said. “You don’t want to get so mundane just on special teams in general. But when you have guys that understand the importance of them and the importance of doing everything right, then you get a good outcome more times than not.”
Richardson’s regret: Georgia coach Mark Richt confirmed during Tuesday’s press conference that Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson did apologize after Saturday’s game for disrespecting the Bulldogs.
Richardson created the buzzworthy headline of the week by saying Georgia plays “old man football” as the Tigers prepared for their SEC debut against the Bulldogs. But he sought out the Bulldogs coach after the game to apologize for generating controversy.
“Sheldon basically said it was a good game and coach I have a lot of respect for you and your team,” Richt said. “He said he didn’t mean to disrespect. You could tell he was sincerely a pretty good guy. I thought it was big of him to grab me and say that he had a lot of respect for our program and our team.”
Injury update: Georgia’s coaching staff is taking it easy with several starters who are nursing injuries following the Missouri game.
Jones was held out of contact at Tuesday’s full-pads practice to rest a groin strain and shoulder contusion, and he was joined by nose guard Jenkins (shoulder contusion) and cornerback Malcolm Mitchell (ankle sprain/shoulder contusion).
Defensive end Cornelius Washington (hamstring strain) and cornerback Damian Swann (knee contusion) were listed as limited and offensive lineman Watts Dantzler (ankle sprain) was out according to the team’s injury report.
Receiver Michael Bennett returned to full practice after being limited Monday by a knee contusion.