Rewarded For Hard Work

Arkansas redshirt senior Austin Jones (6-2, 233) has battled through a transfer, a torn ACL and just being a forgotten walk-on to being tabbed the starter at middle linebacker with a scholarship.

Austin Jones knows that not many Arkansas football fans know who he is – or many of the other linebacker candidates for that matter.

But the 6-2, 233-pound redshirt senior – who transferred from Air Force and is running first team at middle linebacker right now – is sure that several of those guys are about to make names for themselves.

"It is absolutely true," Jones said. "As a linebacking corp, none of the linebackers have started a game so I can see where that comes from, but they'll understand after the first game that we are going to compete hard and we are going to fly around.

"So it is not going to be for long that they are not going to know us," Jones added.

Jones, a former walk-on who got a scholarship on Sunday night, played his high school football at Lake Highlands High in Dallas, Texas, and had a whopping 160 tackles as a senior.

He decided to take a chance on an offer from Air Force, but ended up staying just a year before transferring to Arkansas.

"It (the Air Force) just wasn't for me," Jones said. "I wanted to play Division I football and that was one of my offers and coming out of high school I had decent grades so I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something different.

"Football was great, but balancing academics, the military and football wasn't for me," Jones added.

He redshirted in 2010 and only worked with the scout team in 2011 – suffering a torn ACL along the way - before getting into two games and making a tackle last season.

"You really just have to adapt and overcome all the adversity that comes your way," Jones said. "I think I have done that and now I have this great staff that is giving me a chance."

Jones has enjoyed working with Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash and linebackers coach Randy Shannon.

"He (Ash) is very firey guy and he gets me motivated and his passion for the game rubs off on me and the whole defense," Jones said.

"Coach Shannon – my position coach – dumbs it down so you can perfectly understand the game," Jones added. "Learning for those two guys have made me understand that I can play all three linebacker spots because they have all the same responsibilities."

Jones appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season last year after a spring that saw him make numerous plays.

"It didn't transfer last season, but I feel like it is going to transfer this season," Jones said. "I have had a solid camp and I am getting better each day. I want it to translate to the season in a week-and-a-half."

"Last season I just kind of got lost in the shuffle with the new coach and things like that," Jones said later.

After the injury to sophomore Otha Peters in Saturday night's scrimmage, true freshman Brooks Ellis now backing up Jones middle linebacker.

The 22-year-old Jones has taken the 18-year-old Ellis under his wing.

"He is a good guy," Jones said. "Any questions he has, he ask me and he is a real natural athlete, a real natural linebacker. It is really fun to watch and sometimes I can learn from him on film to see how he reads and his body movement. I think we are both working off of each other."

Jones was obviously very pleased to hear he was being awarded a scholarship.

"It feels good and it was cool to feel the recognition of what I have been through," Jones said. "Not only football, but life if you keep grinding and keep working, it will pay off. "Starting off as a walk-on and on the scout team and then getting injured – looking back on it, it has been a wild rollercoaster journey. Now it has just all kind of fallen into place my senior year and I just want to have an amazing season."

Jones sit out Saturday's scrimmage with a slight injury.

"I just had a little ding on the shoulder," Jones said. "It wasn't a big thing."

He did think the first-team defense showed its mettle again in that workout.

"Overall we didn't allow a single touchdown and gave up just one big play so statistically we did pretty good," Jones said.

Jones talked about how the Arkansas players have bought into what the new coaches are teaching.

"We have embraced Coach Ash and his philosophy along with our position coaches," Jones said. "Right now we are just working out the little mistakes here and there and really just trying to master it.

"We have been working against our offense and we have got that pretty much down, now it is going to be game-planning for Louisiana," Jones added. "That starts tomorrow and goes through all next week."

Austin Jones

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