Rolland-Jones Back From Injury in a Big Way

A year ago we heard talk of a true freshman pushing for playing time at defensive end. Then he tore his MCL in preseason drills. A year later, that freshman, now a redshirt, is making a name for himself.

Ja’Von Rolland-Jones had one of the best game ever for Arkansas State as he made a career-high eight tackles, five of them for losses in the Red Wolves’ 44-28 victory over Idaho. He was named Sun Belt defensive player of the week. The four sacks ties the A-State record and is the best this season in the Sun Belt and third best in the nation this season.

“Hats off to him,’’ said defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. “He works at it. He works on his craft. We have known this for a while he can be a good pass rusher because he is really good with his hands. Coach (Brian) Early had shown him some things.

“Any time a guy can get 4 or 5 sacks a game, no matter who you are playing, that is tough to do. Ja'Von is a good athlete. I don’t think he will back off at all. He will keep getting better and better each week. We counted one play where he chased the quarterback out of bounds as another sack, which is should be.

“He has got a big challenge ahead of him this week. These guys are pretty good. They are a lot better at pass protection.

Rolland-Jones leads the Red Wolves with a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss and has six sacks this season. The 6-foot-2, 224-pound lineman ranks fourth in the conference in sacks and is 22nd nationally. He also has forced 2 fumbles this season.

“He did great job creating pressure on the quarterback,’’ said Anderson. “It turned into a pretty good mismatch between him and their left side, their left tackle. They played a couple of different guys. He had four sacks, potentially five, but he got back there and created pressure early in the game, when they tried to throw the ball and was very disruptive. I thing he has gotten better each week. He is a young guy and probably his strength is speed and twitch off the edge in 1-on-1 pass rush.

“His strength is definitely speed and quickness. He is not overly big and not tremendously strong. He’s not going to bull rush people although they did try to double him one time and he split the double team and was still able to make the play. He has all the tools but speed and quickness is what he leans on mostly.

Rolland-Jones signed with the Red Wolves out of Mesquite, Texas High School. As a senior he was in the top in Texas for tackles for loss and tied for most sacks during the regular season.

“You could see signs of spark in spring and fall camp,’’ said Anderson. “You knew he had the skill level. I think whoever brought him in here did a great job identifying that he had the skill set. I don’t know if you ever count on redshirt freshmen to mature as quickly as he has but he has bought into what we have asked him to do and he plays with a high motor and that along with his skill set makes him a very dynamic defensive player. He made so plays early and that has helped his confidence. I don’t know that I had a ceiling set for him but very pleased with here he is at now and looking forward to the rest of the season.”