By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Chris Jones received a lot of attention in 2013.
From his suspenseful recruitment in January to his Freshman All-SEC performance last fall for Mississippi State, Jones drew his share of the spotlight during that calendar year.
The former five-star standout from Houston High School appeared in all 13 games for the Bulldogs and earned three starts as a rookie. Jones recorded 32 tackles, seven stops for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups and 10 quarterback hurries.
Even as good as Jones was last fall, his coaching staff is expecting more from his encore.
“We had a meeting with him and told him to let his personality out,” said MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. “He’s got a huge personality. He’s 6-foot-6, 308-pounds and his personality is even bigger than that. We’re starting to see that a little bit. He’s got such a big persona and once he lets it out it’s going to be something dangerous.”
Jones is taking first team reps the spring with senior defensive tackles Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones sidelined with injury. Head coach Dan Mullen is hoping the extra repetitions will help improve fundamentals for the budding star.
“We want to make sure he’s improving technically as a player,” Mullen said. “Talent will take a you a little ways but he did a lot of things that were bad last year. He made some plays because he has some talent but if he wants to be a great player he has to be technically sound. This is an opportunity for him to learn this.”
State may have lost running back LaDarius Perkins to graduation and Derrick Milton to a mid-year transfer but the Bulldogs backfield was not left barren.
Rising senior Nick Griffin, junior Josh Robinson and sophomore Ashton Shumpert are back after combining for 745 yards and seven touchdowns last fall. Sophomore Brandon Holloway has split time at tailback and slot receiver this spring.
Joining that fold in the fall will be in-state running back signees Aries Williams of West Point and Dontavian Lee of Forrest County AHS.
“They’re all explosive and have something different to offer,” said MSU quarterback Dak Prescott. “Josh is powerful and quick. Holloway is as quick and shifty as it gets. Add a veteran like Nick Griffin and a strong back like Shumpert, all those guys have different weapons and we’re ready to use them.”
Leading rusher back
The Bulldogs’ best rushing option last season did not even play running back.
Prescott was Mississippi State’s leading rusher in 2013 with 829 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound rising junior averaged 6.2 yards per carry and 75.4 yards a game.