Aug 13, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Attention, Atlantic Coast Conference quarterbacks; Christian Jones is coming to a backfield near you.
Jones, FSU's talented senior defender and returning tackles leader, is back for one more go-around with the Seminoles and this year he's expected to see snaps at defensive end as a pass rusher in certain situations.
Wait; what? Defensive end?
That's right. Jones, who started every game at strong side linebacker as a sophomore in 2011 and then started every game last year as a junior at weak side linebacker, moved to middle linebacker this past spring in new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense. But while Jones is the full-time starter at "Mike", the 'Noles' new scheme will call for certain situations in which the powerful and athletic Winter Park, Fla. native will put his hand in the turf and attack the quarterback like a bull rushing a matador.
"I'm really excited about Coach Pruitt's system," Jones said. "This defense allows me to show my versatility. It will give me a chance to not just show people that I can play multiple spots at linebacker but that I can come off the edge effectively and rush the passer. It gives me more chances to make plays and that's exactly what I want to do for my team."
Jones' versatility is his greatest strength, and is one of the reasons -- the others being his speed, sideline-to-sideline ability and size -- why he is expected to be an early NFL Draft selection next spring.
But that potential scenario would have never played out had Jones made a different decision following the 'Noles' Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois in early January.
"Growing up you always have dreams of playing at the highest level and when you get the opportunity to leave early and realize that dream, it's tough to turn it down," Jones said. "I thought about it a lot and it was really tough on me. One day I would have my mind made up, 'OK, I'm going;' the next day, 'No, I need to wait until next year.'
"It was a hard process but just being able to talk to my family and pray about it helped me make what was the best decision for me."
In Pruitt's defense, Jones' NFL Draft stock has the potential to soar to heights it perhaps couldn't when Mark Stoops was FSU's defensive coordinator. Not that Jones wouldn't have been drafted had he played another year for Stoops, but the manner in which he figures to be utilized this season as not only a linebacker but as a pass rusher, should help the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder generate more big, potential game-changing plays.
"[He gives you] athleticism; good athleticism," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "And he's learning to be a good pass rusher. He's learning to be a good pass rusher. He can move around a cover from there. He can do a lot of things. He's athletic; a good player."
Hicks set on keeping No. 6
By now you've heard the story: FSU has two veteran defensive players that both want to wear No. 6 and neither wants to switch. Fisher has acknowledged the jersey-number predicament and the players have said they will figure out a way to make it work since both cannot be on the field at the same time.
While one very may well still switch before the season starts, for now both Nick Waisome and Dan Hicks are No. 6. I asked Hicks, who is back at defensive end after an injury-lost season as a tight end last year, why he was so set on sticking with the number.
"I don't know Nick's reason for wearing the number but I switched over, I got this number," he said, "and I never got to finish in this number and I want to finish out this season in this number."
Answering your Twitter questions
Fisher said after practice today that he has been pleased with Desmond Hollin's progression. Since he has been working a lot with the defensive tackles, the depth chart is crowded so Hollin is definitely in a reserve role. But he is still expected to see the field this season as he pushes for more and more playing time.
Chad Abram is definitely the guy there as the only scholarship player at the position. Don't be surprised, though, to see redshirt defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel get some reps there in goal line situations as well. McDaniel tweeted about that possibility before camp started and Fisher has confirmed that he could be utilized as a two-way player this season.
This guy knows a thing or two about good looking receivers, wouldn't you agree, 'Noles fans?
To answer your question, P.K., they look really, really good. Rashad Greene is obviously the star and he makes what he does on the practice field look effortless. Kenny Shaw is similar in that you know he is going to bring it every day, too. Kelvin Benjamin is in the best shape of his life (he told us after he practice he is down to 234 pounds after playing at 248 last year) and Christian Green is really stepping up and should have a career year.
The trio of freshmen also continue to impress. Fisher and receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey have been very complimentary of Isaiah Jones, Levonte Whitfield and Jesus Wilson since camp started. Expect all three to play this season.
I had several people tweet to me today asking about Whitfield. He's definitely as fast as advertised and is going to give the Seminoles an extra element offensively they didn't have last year.
The offensive line is doing well. You know what you are going to get with the starting five of Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Bryan Stork, Tre' Jackson and Bobby Hart. Those five definitely mix it up and win their fair share of battles with FSU's ferocious defensive line.
The question is depth. Austin Barron is out for the next several weeks with a chip in his foot and true freshman Ryan Hoefeld is also temporarily sidelined. Fellow rookie Wilson Bell, Jacob Fahrenkrug and Sterling Loveday have to be ready because their numbers could be called at any time.
I had several questions about FSU's starting quarterback. Still no decision from Fisher on whether or not it's Jameis Winston or Jacob Coker. Both continue to have their moments. Here's the story I wrote yesterday on Fisher's impending decision.