Jones embracing role in the middle

Senior linebacker says he had his best game against Nebraska and coaches are happy about his play of late.

As Pat Narduzzi watched Taiwan Jones communicating and running Michigan State defense Saturday against Nebraska, it brought back memories of the player Jones replaced this year.

From the coaches’ box at Spartan Stadium, Narduzzi saw a player that looked a lot like Max Bullough.

”If you watch all the signals he was making, he looked like No. 40 last year really,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi said after the senior linebacker’s performance with 10 tackles and three tackles for loss that he was the player of the game – something he told him he could be before the game if he could command the Michigan State defense.

”He had to be good and he got them lined up to a T,” Narduzzi said. “Taiwan Jones still in my opinion was the player of the game for not only the way he lined up, but for the way he played.”

On Tuesday, Jones said he felt very focused and put in the necessary preparation, while studying what Bullough did last year against the Huskers.

”He basically did the same thing, going up to the line when the quarterback was audibling and knowing where the play was coming from,” he said. “I feel like I did that as well.”

He also said he thinks it is the best football he has played.

“I think it was, especially coming from a different position and coming to a new position,” he said. “I feel like I came a long way as a player since the spring has started. I’m starting to display what I’m capable of doing and how I can lead this defense.”

It was a feeling also expressed by coach Mark Dantonio, who praised all the linebackers for their play, including Jones.

”You want a thumper at MIKE and when you watch that game, Taiwan was a thumper,” Dantonio said. “He got off blocks straight up and made hits. We need to continue have him doing that.”

His 10 tackles matched a career high, set in 2012 at Iowa, while his three tackle for loss were easily a career high. But it was the way he commanded the defense that made a difference.

Linebackers coach Mike Tressel said the way Jones handled himself impacted the whole defense, as his energy level changes the way the defensive line plays and adds confidence.

”That’s the first time I’ve really seen him embrace that communication part of it,” Tressel said. “He’s been doing it, but there was all of a sudden a swag about him that was new and exciting to see.”

Part of the process has been becoming more vocal, Jones said, as he has become more willing to call people out and make sure his teammates are focused.

”(I’m more willing) whether it’s having to call people out or call the whole defense out,” he said. “If we want to be the defense that we say we are, we have to do the things we say we are going to do.”

Tressel said he is not sure what made the change to have everything click, but he is glad it did.

”You will have to ask him what flipped the switch, but his communication and his knowledge has been there,” he said, “but the energy level and the confidence he exuded were at a different level.

”What flipped the switch? I don’t know, but I’m happy it flipped.”

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