"He's like all freshmen," Joe Kines said. "He comes in, it all hits him and he's confused, but he's settled down. He's doing some nice things. He has got a bright future. When it happens I'm not smart enough to say yet, but he has got a good future. He's a good player."
There had been a question about whether or not Jones would be eligible this year, but the way Terrance Jones tells it, there were no problems regarding his qualifying status. He just waited too late to do one important thing. Jones registered late with the NCAA Clearinghouse, which led people to believe that he wasn't going to be cleared and eligible to play.
"I had my ACT score, graduation exam, and a strong finish with my core classes," Jones said. "I just registered late with the clearinghouse. There were no factors with me being ineligible. My coaches and teachers knew I was eligible all along. I just registered late."
Now that there are no questions with Jones' eligibility, he is happy to be on the practice field.
"I've learned a lot here," Jones said. "There's a big difference between here and high school. I learn new stuff every day. I'm trying to get some playing time this year."
Jones has a good shot to get some playing time this year at linebacker, since defensive coordinator Joe Kines wants to play six linebackers. It's likely that the three starters for South Florida will be Derrick Pope, Freddie Roach, and Demeco Ryans. Cornelius Wortham should return quickly from an elbow injury, but probably not by the season opener. Juke King, who is also recovering from injury (knee), is expected back sometime in September. Juwan Garth projects as the principal the backup.
"I thought about redshirting because of my size," Jones said. "It would be good to redshirt and get bigger and learn, but if there's a place where I can fit in, I'm going to try to fit in and do my best."
Kines doesn't think Jones needs to get bigger, stronger, or faster, he thinks Jones just needs some experience.
"He just needs time on the job," Kines said. "He just needs to see it. There's so much coming at him so fast that he doesn't get it assimilated back out fast enough. But when he catches on he's really good.
"He's got some natural (talents). He's got good eyes as a linebacker; he was well coached in high school; and he's a strong player."
Thought of by many as undersized for the outside linebacker position, Jones says he's 6-foot-2 and weighs 205 pounds. But Tide fans know that size isn't everything at the college level, as Brooks Daniels posted back-to-back 100-tackle seasons at about the same size. Daniels will not play this season due to a medical condition.
Jones isn't worried about his size.
"I heard some stories about linebackers who came in that weighed about the same as I did, and they became some great linebackers," Jones said. "(Former Tide running back) Bobby Humphrey told me the other day not to let my size discourage me. I've got speed, so I'm going to let that make up for my size."
Robert Higginbotham of Tuscaloosa County High School coached Jones in high school. Jones says that helped him develop into a top-notch college prospect. Before coming to coach at Tuscaloosa County High School, Higginbotham spent many years at Shades Valley, helping develop stellar linebackers such as Auburn's Karlos Dansby and Saleem Rasheed, former all-star linebacker at Alabama now in the NFL.
"All the players that he had, he had some great linebackers at Shades Valley, he said I fit in the mold that some of the players that he had over the past years that went on to the professionals," Jones said. "He told me to keep up the good work, and encouraged me."
Now Jones will have a high school teammate and friend to get adjusted to life as a freshman, as fullback Le'Ron McClain received the news that he had passed his high school exit exam, and started practicing last Saturday.
"I'm glad he got the good news," Jones said. "Being his friend, I knew it was taking a toll on him. It's up to us to make where we came from (Tuscaloosa County High School) a good school that produces a lot of talent."
EDITOR'S NOTE Jones actually spells his first name "Terrence." It's misspelled once in this article, because temporarily our network database is wrong. We'll get it corrected soon. Please excuse the error.