Summer Top 50 - No. 17 Deion Jones

TSD's summer countdown reaches another senior at No. 17 in Deion Jones, a New Orleans native gearing up for his first year as a starter at outside linebacker.

Because everyone loves to rank things, and because summer is the best time to argue and debate, TSD is spending the coming weeks through the end of July rolling out its top 50 LSU football players for the coming season.

Many are seasoned veterans and a select few are new to the roster, but all 50 Tigers figure to make an impact on the gridiron in 2015.

So we hope you enjoy this list, updated once each weekday and compiled by the TSD staff of Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua (who, naturally, had disagreements of their own along the way).

Today the countdown comes to another upperclassman closing in on his first opportunity to move into the starting lineup, senior linebacker Deion Jones.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM


Speed kills. And in the case of "Debo" Jones, it's finally got him positioned to be a starter in LSU's defense. Jones, a Jesuit product, is poised to start in 2015 at weakside linebacker, occupying a spot that in recent years has been a highly productive position with Lamin Barrow and Kwon Alexander manning the helm.

Jones (6-1, 220) was a favorite of former defensive coordinator John Chavis, but it always seemed he lacked the size to have any real staying power in the linebacking corps under Chief. Still, despite being mostly a special teams gunner (and a good one), Jones has compiled some legitimate statistics over the course of his three seasons in Baton Rouge.

For starters he's played in all 39 games possible, starting once last year. He's compiled 65 total tackles, including a career-high 27 a year ago (only eight of which were on special teams). Most impressive is the fact Debo always finds a way to track ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Of his 65 tackles, 7.5 have come for loss, and Jones has also registered five QB hurries. There's plenty of reason to be optimistic that given more playing time as a starter, Jones will continue to wreak havoc in the backfield.

STILL LEFT TO PROVE


For all the positive there are at least a few fair questions surrounding Jones this fall. They are: Can he make the transition to full-time defender from special teams ace? Can he improve enough in coverage to stay on the field in two-linebacker sets? And, finally, everybody from this point forward on the countdown is a starter. Will Jones prove to be more than just that and make a real difference in the Tigers' defense?

How he answers those first two will go a long way to determining the answer to the third question. Jones really started to factor in some as the fourth 'backer in 2014, evidenced by 19 of his 27 tackles coming as a defender, not on kickoff coverage. This season he'll almost certainly not have to worry about special teams detail, able to focus all his efforts on defense.

But the second question to me is the most interesting. Right now the starting linebackers project to be Jones on the weakside, Lamar Louis on the strongside and Kendell Beckwith in the middle. Beckwith is definitely staying on the field during passing downs. Past experience shows up Louis is not a tremendous candidate to remain in on nickel and dime sets. So a lot of burden will be on Jones to prove he can aid in coverage. How he comes along on that front will determine a lot of what new coordinator Kevin Steele decides to do in his sub-packages.





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