One of the key players in the secondary in 2013, Chris Davis, is now trying to make a living with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. Jones hopes to step up and fill the void. “We have big shoes to fill with Chris being gone, but I am up to the task,” Jones said.
His position coach, Melvin Smith, seems confident that Jones is ready to have a productive season. “I am expecting a lot this year from Jonathan,” Smith said. “I just pray for good health. Jonathan has not been healthy. He has had some back luck, but he hasn’t missed a practice. He did a really good job for us this spring and I was impressed. He has had a really good fall camp.”
“He has great speed,” Smith added. “I have been on him about his technique. I want him to bend more sometimes in man coverage.
“Jonathan is a gifted athlete and he is bigger than you think. He is 185 pounds and sturdily-built. I love Jonathan. He is athletic, he can run, he is smart. He knows what I want and he understands what I want. I foresee some special stuff for him.”
The junior noted that he believes the secondary can be strong this year, even with the loss of Davis. Asked what he is expecting from the group, Jones said, “A lot of turnovers, people flying to the ball, a lot of interceptions, consistency. We have a lot of older guys who have been around a lot so I expect more consistency.
“Last year we did better than the year before at creating turnovers and each year you want to continue to improve on that,” he said. “That is one of the focuses we have as a group along with having no missed assignments.”
As a true freshman in 2012 after an outstanding high school career at Carrollton High School in Georgia, Jones he started three times and was a standout on special teams. Last season he missed five games with injuries and was less than full speed in others.
Asked if he is 100 percent now, the former high school state and national champion in the 110 hurdles said with a smile, “I am back feeling fast again.”
Jones has several personal goals for the 2014 season. “I want to start,” he said. “That is the first goal. Any time I am on the field, even though I am just a junior, I want to play each game like it is my last one. I want to get some interceptions and contribute to the team.”
Jones is competing with senior Jonathon Mincy to be the No. 1 field corner, but can also play the boundary cornerback position. He also expects to play a role on the punt coverage unit.
“Coach Smith always says if you don’t have corners on the special teams it is not a good special team,” Jones noted. “He wants those fast games guys out there who can tackle.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said he likes what Jones can do. “We look at J.J. as a starter,” he stated. “That being said I don’t think he’s a 75-play guy. He has excellent cover skills and is a great third down player. We will be very comfortable if he starts.”