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July 25, 2011

Teaching the "Georgia Way"

Senior center Ben Jones said there's been one common theme that he and the rest of Georgia's upper-classmen have tried to relay to the current freshman class - this isn't high school anymore.

"Over the summer they have learned and seen that this is not high school anymore - this is SEC football," Jones said. "We've tried to show all the freshmen that there is a "Georgia way" and we're trying to win a championship. We've told them we hope they're on board with us, because it (your career) goes by fast. This is my last year. I haven't won a championship and I don't want to leave without one."

That includes freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, who has been the subject of considerable message board chatter since he's arrived on campus back in early June.

Jones said he and a select group of upper-classmen have taken a special interest in the former Carver star and are trying to make sure his adjustment to big-time college football goes as smoothly as possible.

That's one of the reasons that Jones, quarterback Aaron Murray, linebacker Christian Robinson, among others, went to Crowell's dorm for a quick side session soon after he arrived.

"We just went to him, told him we need him and how we were hoping he would put in the extra work," Jones said. "We, that day, we went out and put in the extra work, got in an extra day, to get further ahead."

When it comes to the freshmen offensive linemen, Jones said he couldn't be more pleased with the way they've approached summer workouts.

"They're healthy and every one of them has come in, been on time and been to every workout and film room with me working on drills," Jones said. "We'll see how they look once we get the pads on, because that's when you can really start to tell."

Jones said that freshman linebacker Ray Drew has already made a significant impact in the lockerroom.

"He brings a lot of character to the team. He's never quiet," Jones said. "In the (meeting) room we're on the same row. We're in numerical order so he's right across from me. But no, he's never quiet. He wears a size 18 and always cutting the fool."

Actually, Jones and Drew have a little history between them.

Jones' late father played at Drew's alma mater - Thomas County Central, while his grandfather was once a principal at the school.

"I told him I've got family from there, so he'd better watch out," Jones laughed.

Jones made those comments during last week's session with print writers at SEC Media Days in Hoover, some 50 miles from his hometown of Centreville, Ala.

For most of the reporters there, it was their first opportunity to talk with the player head coach Mark Richt called the "best center in the SEC" and his pick to win the prestigious Rimington Award, which goes to the top center in college football.

"That was an honor to hear Coach Richt say something like that," Jones said. "It really is a big honor."

Which is one reason, Jones began to tire of some of the "hot seat" questions regarding his head coach.

"Coach Richt is a father figure to us and we're trying to win every game - that's our goal. Losing is not an option for u s, so when we do it hurts badly," Jones said. "Coach Richt is the face of Georgia football. I don't think there's a better coach or a better man. You know what you're going to get from Coach Richt from the first day. I look up to him more than anybody."

During his 20-minute session, Jones took a good-natured jab at LSU coach Les Miles, who after beating Alabama last year in Baton Rouge, leaned over during the fourth quarter and ate some of the grass at Tiger Field.

Bulldog fans will recall it was Jones who chomped on a hunk of sod from Bobby Dodd Stadium after beating Georgia Tech in Atlanta two years ago.

"I might have to talk to him about that," Jones smiled. "They (reporters) were telling me about that in another room. I thought I was the only one who did that; he must have stolen that from me."

But Jones' mood turned dead serious when the subject turned to the season-opener against Boise State, which the senior said is the first step to the Bulldog eradicating the sour taste left in their collective mouth from last year's 6-7 campaign.

"After you go 6-7, you have a gut-check at the end of the season. You get the guys together and you talk. You know you've got to change stuff and we knew something wasn't right," Jones said. "I think we've come together. Nobody's been skipping any days; this is our (the seniors) team now and we're making it a point to turn this thing around."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.

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