Jones could have easily retreated to his home in South Carolina earlier this summer, but he opted to remain in Tallahassee. It was a decision Jones believes will prove beneficial when the varsity reports Thursday and opens practice Saturday. The Seminoles' season-opener isn't far behind - Aug. 24 against Iowa State in Kansas City.
"I wanted to stay here to attend summer school and work out," Jones said. "I just feel real positive about this season, and there were some things I wanted to work on to improve my game. I think I can do a lot more than I did (last year). I guess that's the reason I decided to stay here the entire summer. I need to get better."
Jones, a powerfully built 6-1, 245-pound junior from Beaufort, S.C., was the Seminoles' leading rusher last year with 713 yards on 134 carries (5.4 average). Jones gained over 100 yards in four of FSU's last eight games, including a game-high 120 yards on 23 carries in the Seminoles' Gator Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. He also registered a team-best six rushing touchdowns.
Still, Jones wasn't satisfied with his performance.
"The biggest thing I tried to concentrate on this summer was catching the football," Jones said. "I also wanted to work on my quickness."
Of course, FSU was able to attack opponents last season with a double-dose of Jones and the shifty Nick Maddox. Each offers a different style. Jones is strong, Maddox elusive. The duo combined for 1,151 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. However, Jones only had three receptions for 11 yards, while Maddox ended as the team's fourth-leading receiver with 26 catches for 262 yards.
"We are different," Jones said of himself and Maddox. "We both play the same position but we are both very different. He's a scat back. He catches the ball and can do a lot of things I can't do. At 6-1, 245, I am more of a power back. I can do things that Nick can't do. I think that's why we both compliment each other so well."
Still, Jones wants to be more of a receiving threat out of the backfield, especially if the Seminoles rely more on the shotgun and an aggressive, fast approach under sophomore quarterback Chris Rix. Jones might also be called upon more if Maddox or redshirt freshman Willie Reid, also considered an excellent receiver, are lined up in the slot when FSU goes to a four-receiver set.
"My senior year in high school I probably caught the ball three times," Jones said and laughed. "That's the thing. We have a lot of weapons. We have a lot of people we can go to in certain situations. A lot of people want to step up and make the play. I think we are going to have a good offense."
Many believe the Seminoles are capable of having an exceptional offense.
Of course, it also remains to be seen how many incoming freshmen will be able to contribute immediately. Capped by tailback Lorenzo Booker, FSU's 22-member recruiting class had been ranked as one of the country's best by many recruiting analysts. But five recruits -- receiver Dishon Platt, tight end Lonnie Davis and defensive linemen Chris Anderson, Chris Bradwell and Chris Turner -- failed to qualify academically.
And questions remain if receiver Chauncey Stovall will earn his AA degree from Hinds Community College in Mississippi this week and be cleared to join the Seminoles.
The tailback slot should prove interesting. Booker, Thomas Clayton and Leon Washington are currently listed behind Jones, Maddox and Reid on the depth chart. While possibly two of the three newcomers could be redshirted, their presence gives the Seminoles added depth at the position.
"I guess coming in, I am gonna tell them the same thing older guys told me -- work hard. Don't get frustrated," Jones said. "There's going to be days out there when they are going to be tired, and you don't know what to expect or what to do, but you have to keep going."
Jones also wants to keep it going. That's why he remained in Tally this summer and why he continues to follow his routine of weight training and conditioning. There's also a bitter taste remaining from last season's 8-4 struggles.
"Yes, last year was frustrating," Jones said. "As a freshman we win 11 games and last year we win only eight. We are a different team, too. We have more experience. With that experience, I think we can do anything we put our minds to. I think last season brought as closer together as a team. Everyone wants to win. It's not about individual goals. It's about being a team. For me personally, I just want to be consistent and healthy. You wait so long for the season to start, and, before you know it, two-a-days are already here. I am ready."