Jones Improving Strength and Speed

At the beginning of the season there was no guarantee that linebacker A.J. Jones would be a starter for the Florida Gators. Even though he started last season, the competition was better threatening Jones' role. But he transformed his body physically during the offseason and it's transformed his game.

A.J. Jones is the Gators' sixth leading tackler with 29 tackles. He's got 2.5 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble. Like so many of the other Gator defenders, he's become an accountable player on the field whom his teammates can trust and he said that's the major key when comparing last year's defense to this year's.

"Right now, our defense is based on do you trust the guy next to you," Jones said. "For me, I trust Spikes, I trust Doe and I trust the whole up front and I trust the whole secondary. And last year, we would be tired out on the field, but now we have a rotation so that everyone is switching in and out of the game."

What's really helped Jones' game, though, is his physical transformation. He's gained 20 pounds from last year and improved his speed. Last season, he played around 202-205, but this year he's up to 222. All in all, he's gained 52 pounds since arriving on campus. But it hasn't impacted his speed. He's gone from a 4.6 when he was a senior in high school to a 4.5 40-time.

"It's a big difference," Jones said. "At first I didn't buy into it. I just thought you're going to make plays if you make plays. But now, I see that the weight training and speed makes you better. You get a chance to get the lineman off of you, you can go fast and make plays and stuff."

Strength coach Mickey Marotti has been a big part in Jones' transformation. He put Jones on the "Breakfast Club" where players have daily competitions as to how much they can eat. He usually has 4-5 meals a day to keep his weight up and always has Marotti in his face.

"It's a great program," he said. "I just basically lift, eat and live right. They had me on the all-you-can eat special. I just have to keep eating because I have a fast metabolism."

"Coach Marotti has done a great job because he's the one that stays on our back to make sure that we're keeping our weight up."

Jones gained 30 of the 50 pounds during his freshman season where he was forced to sit out because of an ankle injury. Before the injury, he admits he didn't really buy into Florida's strength and conditioning program, but now that he sees how it pays off on the field, he's a big believer.

"My attitude when I first got here was you just go out and play," he said. "Now I realize that gaining weight and gaining speed really does make a different on the field."

Jones' focus, however, is not on his personal accomplishments. He's focused on the team's goals and Florida's upcoming game with Vanderbilt.

"We set goals every week for what we want to do and we just need to keep hitting them," Jones said.

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