Jones informed the school Friday that he won’t be returning for his senior season, a decision that was expected almost as soon as he announced a year ago that he was returning to the Bulldogs. He is projected to be one of the top picks in the NFL draft after leading the nation with 14½ sacks, 24½ tackles for losses and seven forced fumbles, even while missing two games with injuries.
“This has been a difficult decision, and one that I have talked over with my family and coaches,” Jones said in a statement released by the school. “I think this decision comes at the right time for me and my family and I look forward to seeing what the next level holds for me. Go Dogs!”
Jones wasted no time making a decision, announcing his plans just three days after a 45-31 victor over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Georgia native started his career at Southern Cal, but sustained a neck injury during his freshman year. He transferred back home, sat out a season, then joined the Bulldogs in 2011.
He started all 26 games he played over the last two seasons and finished with 28 sacks, the third most in school history. He also had 44 tackles behind the line, 155 total tackles, nine forced fumbles and an interception.
“I will always appreciate the chance Georgia gave me after my injury at Southern Cal,” Jones said. “There is nothing like the Bulldog fans and I will forever be proud to wear the ‘G.’”
After leading the SEC in sacks (13½) and tackles for losses (19½) as a third-year sophomore, Jones could have entered the draft. But he and several other top defensive players, including safety Baccari Rambo, opted to stay for another season, hoping to lead the Bulldogs to a championship. They came agonizingly close, losing to No. 2 Alabama in a classic Southeastern Conference title game that came down to the final play.
If the Bulldogs had pulled out the victory, they would have earned their first SEC crown since 2005 and faced top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS championship in Miami.
Jones bounced back from the bitter defeat, closing his college career in style with two sacks and eight tackles in the win over Nebraska. That performance gave him the school record for both sacks and tackles behind the line in a season.
He was a finalist for the Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski, Butkus and Lott awards.
Georgia will have some major holes to fill on defense next season. Junior linebacker Alec Ogletree announced immediately after the Capital One Bowl that he was going pro, and the Bulldogs also will lose three key seniors: Rambo, safety Shawn Williams and nose tackle John Jenkins.