SDS is continually counting down the top 25 players in the SEC for 2012, and we’re not stopping until we get to that sexy No. 1. We don’t just rank stats or project players at the next level based on athletic superiority, but we rank players based on the season they had in 2012. I know you’ll agree with every single one…

No. 2 – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

2012 stats: 85 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, one INT, three pass breakups, 39 QB hurries, two fumble recoveries, seven forced fumbles

Why he’s worthy: One of the most electrifying and game changing defensive players to ever suit up in the red and black almost never had the opportunity to do so because of an injury. Few thought the two-time consensus All-American Jarvis Jones would ever play football again, much less dominate opponents the way he did in just two seasons.

Jones transferred from USC where the medical staff would not clear him from a neck injury he suffered in 2009 against Oregon. But luckily for Mark Richt and Todd Grantham, Jones chose to come back home and was cleared by the Georgia medical staff. And what a profound impact he had.

To say he thrived in Grantham’s 3-4 defense would be an understatement. In just two short years, Jones racked up 28 sacks and 44 tackles for loss, leading the conference in both categories in back-to-back seasons.

Specifically in 2012, Jones had a stellar junior campaign while suffering from ankle and groin injuries. And through all the pain, Jones somehow notched 24.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in just 12 games. Jones even led the country in all three categories, and he broke David Pollack’s single-season sack record of 14 in the bowl game against Nebraska.

Jones repeatedly saved his best against the Bulldogs’ most hated rival Florida. He dominated Florida in ’11 with four sacks and a forced fumble. But Jones trumped himself in 2012, totaling 13 tackles, two forced fumbles and three sacks, and his forced fumble of Jordan Reed at the goal line late in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the Bulldogs, handing Florida their only regular-season loss.

Jones was named the SEC’s AP Defensive Player of the Year over Jadeveon Clowney. He and Clowney both played the same number of games, but Jones racked up 31 more tackles, one more tackle for loss and 1.5 more sacks. And Jones forced four more fumbles than Clowney, too. That’s why he’s the top defensive player on some draft big boards.

Hopefully for Jones’ sake, his early career neck injury never rears its ugly head again. He should be a top-ten pick come April.

The Countdown

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports