There were lots of lofty expectations set for Chris Jones when the five-star prospect signed with Mississippi State out of Houston in 2013.
Jones received his share of reps on the Bulldogs defensive line during his first two years behind a pair of upperclassmen. Now that P.J. Jones and Kaleb Eulls are both gone giving the former blue-chip recruit the green light to secure a starting job.
The 6-foot-5, 308-pounder plans to attack the offseason conditioning program and spring practices so he will be ready to take on more of a starring role on defense next fall.
“You can never work too hard,” Jones said. “I’m going to work hard to lose some weight and stay in shape. I want to get my technique better and play fundamental football.”
Jones earned Freshman All-American honors in 2013 racking up 32 tackles, seven for loss and three sacks.
That stellar showing garnered Jones Preseason All-American status as a sophomore. But the added attention was not only from the media. Opposing defenses took notice and began to draw double teams causing his statistics to slip to 26 stops, 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2014.
“It was hard and I had to adjust to it because I saw more double teams as a sophomore than I did as a freshman,” Jones said. “I was able to make more plays as a freshman. Facing double teams means you have to study a lot more. You have to understand the game instead of going off of athleticism.”
Jones also split his services between defensive tackle and end more as a sophomore.
A high school defensive end, Jones was reluctant to slide inside at first. But the move has paid off allowing him to improve his versatility instead of just being a pass rusher.
“It was a challenge but I was able to progress at both,” Jones said. “I wasn’t used to switching positions and was one dimensional. When they switched me to tackle, I was upset at first but I caught on really fast. Now I kind of like it.”
Graduation took its toll on MSU’s defensive front claiming five players. Jones will be one of only two defensive linemen returning with starting experience along with Ryan Brown.
Jones believes the offseason will be crucial for the defensive line to establish its identity for the defense as a whole.
“The front four set the standard in games from pass rushing to stopping the run,” Jones said. “The defense leans on us. If we’re doing good then the linebackers are doing good and so on. We have to be the ones that set the tone.”