In Saturday's Journal I'll have a story about MSU's defensive front seven and how that group is trying to fill some big holes left by guys now playing in the NFL. This defense does not appear to have another star ready to fill those vacancies, which means the Bulldogs will have to make it a group effort.
Part of that approach involves moving guys around, and one of those guys will be junior Devin Jones. The junior defensive tackle will also see time at end, which might be the weakest part of MSU's defense right now. He doesn't have great size – 6-foot-2, 260 pounds – but he brings other qualities to the table.
"Linemen in the SEC, whoo, they're big," Jones said. "So I plan on using a lot of speed this year and working on good technique that coach (Chris) Wilson tries to teach me. He does a good job of teaching me skill that I can use even though I'm an undersized D-lineman."
Jones' size might not be as big an issue as one would think. As end Sean Ferguson noted, Jones has "a big heart," but he's also got some muscle on him. Jones said his max squat is 650 pounds, among the best on the team. He won the Class 4A state powerlifting title in the 242-pound division in both his junior and senior years at DeSoto Central.
"Coach (Matt) Balis, me and him, we talk about weights all the time," Jones said of MSU's strength and conditioning coach.
Jones also likes mixing it up on the field, regardless of the size difference. "I like to beat big guys," he said.
Jones said he's quite comfortable playing either tackle or end, having also pulled double-duty in high school. Wilson, MSU's defensive coordinator, likes the versatility Jones gives the line and noted his effectiveness against the run.
He's played in 25 games for State and drew one start last season, when he recorded 14 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss and a sack.
Like Jones, Wilson doesn't see a relative lack of size as too big an obstacle.
"The biggest thing about Devin is he's smart and he's got a motor," the coach said. "If you go back and look at him, A) he's very productive, B) he has a tremendous work ethic, so he gives himself a chance to play at any level. The biggest thing he doesn't have is he doesn't have all the measurables. He doesn't have all the 6-foot-4, 300 pounds like Fletcher (Cox) and Josh (Boyd). But as a football player, he really gives himself a chance right away."