By Brandon Speck
HOOVER, Ala. – For Chris Jones, a bumpy recruiting road stabilized rather quickly once it ended in Starkville.
Maybe the country’s hottest topic leading up to Mississippi State’s 2013 recruiting class, Jones emphatically put all the drama behind him as soon as the first collegiate ball of his career kicked off.
“Chris Jones, he’s a freak,” Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney said Tuesday from SEC Media Days. “He’s a big human. He’s fast. He’s athletic. He’s very smart.”
Mississippi State was smart for jumping on the Chris Jones bandwagon first, and despite a heavy Ole Miss push, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman stuck with the Bulldogs. And it paid off immediately for both parties.
The Houston product and 2012 Daily Journal Defensive Player of the Year started three games for the Bulldogs. He played in all 13. Jones finished with 32 tackles and team-highs of seven tackles-for-loss (tied with McKinney) and 10 quarterback hurries. He had three pass breakups and three deflections and was named Associated Press All-SEC honorable mention.Athlon, Bleacher Report and 247Sports named him a Freshman All-American.
Those stats didn’t surprise McKinney.
“Like I said, he’s a big freak, so…” McKinney said.
Jones had two tackles for loss in the Egg Bowl win against Ole Miss and flashed a landshark fin, a photo that went about as wild on social media as his undercover recruiting visits to Oxford. That game earned him SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors.
His recruiting road was so engrossing because both Mississippi State and Ole Miss fans knew what they would be getting.
“Chris Jones, man he’s phenomenal,” Mississippi State safety Jay Hughes said. “He’s phenomenal, freakish. I really enjoy watching him play. I enjoy watching him play.”
But not just a freak specimen. A freak with numbers to back it up.
Hughes calls Mississippi State’s defense “psycho,” a “go nuts, let’s get crazy” style of play. Jones’ path to Starkville was more than crazy. Now, he’s just crazy good and a big part of that psycho defense.
Jones was placed on the Rotary Lombardi Award list on Monday, the first preseason watchlist selection of his career. Athlon has named him a Preseason All-American.
Hughes couldn’t emphasize enough how impressive Jones is.
“Even when I was sitting out, I’m like, ‘Look at this dude,’” Hughes said. “’Look at this dude. He’s just a freshman, man.’”