College football's defensive players in the last half century who have finished among the top five in Heisman Trophy voting:
YEAR / PLAYER / FINISH
1962 / Alabama / LB Lee Roy Jordan / 4th
1968 / Miami / DL Ted Hendricks / 3rd
1969 / Penn State / DL Mike Reid / 5th
1972 / Nebraska / DL Rich Glover / 3rd
1977 / Notre Dame / DL Ross Browner / 5th
1980 / Pittsburgh / DL Hugh Green / 2nd
1983 / Georgia / DB Terry Hoage / 5th
1986 / Oklahoma / LB Brian Bosworth / 4th
1991 / Washington / DL Steve Emtman / 4th
1992 / Florida State / LB Marvin Jones / 4th
1997 / Michigan / DB Chares Woodson / 1st
2009 / Nebraska / DT Ndamukong Suh / 4th
2011 / LSU / DB Tyrann Mathieu / 5th
ATHENS, Ga. - Maybe the "Honey Badger" will impact the 2012 college football season after all.
LSU junior cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is ineligible this year, but the first Southeastern Conference defensive player to earn an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony may have started something. Georgia redshirt junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones could make it two in a row for SEC defenders should he continue to perform at the lofty level he displayed last Saturday at Missouri.
The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy was Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.
"Charles Woodson was a beast during his time, but Honey Badger definitely opened up some doors in this era right here," Jones said. "The dude was a ball hawk and made a lot of plays."
ESPN came out this week with a half-dozen potential Heisman ceremony invitees, and Jones made the list along with Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
Jones did his share of ball-hawking during last week's 41-20 whipping of the Tigers, tallying nine tackles, two sacks, a 21-yard interception return in the fourth quarter that led to a 1-yard touchdown drive and a forced fumble moments later that led to a 5-yard touchdown drive. His dominance took place before the largest ESPN2 audience ever (4.12 million viewers) for a Saturday college football contest.
In the days since, the 6-foot-3, 241-pounder from Columbus has received Bednarik and Nagurski national player of the week honors and the SEC defensive player of the week.
Georgia sports information director Claude Felton said there are no immediate plans to publicize Jones for the Heisman Trophy, and he may not have to. Felton is no stranger to Heisman campaigns, with tailback Herschel Walker having won the award in 1982 and with safety Terry Hoage finishing fifth in '83, tailback Garrison Hearst third in '92 and cornerback Champ Bailey seventh in '98.
"These things, in large part, come down to being on national TV and how you do when you're on," Felton said. "Every game is on TV now, whereas 15 or 20 years ago, you might have had three or four on TV all year. That's a big difference, and games now are being replayed. Our game the other night was replayed.
"Anybody who covers college football knows that Jarvis Jones is a linebacker at Georgia, so he already has name recognition. This time last year, I don't know if the same amount of people knew that Robert Griffin III was the quarterback at Baylor."
Linebackers typically have a tough time in the Heisman balloting, with Ohio State's A.J. Hawk (sixth in 2005) and Southern Cal's Rey Maualuga (ninth in 2008) comprising the only top-10 finishers since 2000.
"It's hard for defensive players to get that award, so just to be up there as a Heisman finalist would be a great accomplishment for me," Jones said.
Jones has a lot in his favor, beginning with being named an All-American last season. He plays for the No. 7 team in the country that has a slew of nationally televised games in the weeks ahead, and there is the intriguing angle that he and Barkley were members of USC's 2009 signing class.
That Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham uses Jones in a variety of ways won't hurt either.
"They do a great job with him, because they move him all over the field," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said, "so it's not like you can say he comes from this spot all the time. He's a great, great player. You can keep more people in to block him, but you've got to find out where he's at.
"I'm just glad we're not playing him again."