Like, say, Jones. In fact the coach will say Jones' name when running through all the lineup options for 2011. Because the junior tack…that is, junior en… Uhhh, Coach, exactly what is #60 in your evaluations?
A football player, that's what.
"Devin is another guy similar to (defensive end) Shane McCardell," says Wilson. "Devin can play inside, he can play nose guard, he can play also at our call-side end position." And when the coordinator says can play, he really means Jones can play. Not to mention practice, with a degree of reliability Wilson seeks here in preseason.
"That's the thing, he is the most consistent guy on our field day-in and day-out as far as effort, fundamentals, what he knows. So he helps us in a lot of different ways."
Jones definitely helps ease several scheming issues for this defensive staff. He came to college in 2008 out of DeSoto Central HS as a defensive end prospect and here three years later could quite easily handle that position. Observers in spring training saw Jones take more first-team snaps at one end than anyone on the depth chart.
At the same time Wilson made it clear, the 260-pounder figures very much into an interior identity. Just as he showed in 2009 when practicing as a redshirt frosh at nose guard in goal line and short-yard settings. So, what's the big deal about honing his talents at tackle now?
Some guys would have their helmets spinning at constant change. Not Jones. "I've practiced at end to see what we've got there," Jones says. "Coach put me back at three-technique to see what I could do, and whatever he wants to do with me I'm going to play."
Play well, too. In two varsity seasons Jones has been on the field in all 25 games, with a start at tackle last September against Auburn. He has 28 total tackles with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 total stops for losses. Oh, and of course, Jones has seen action on special teams; punt coverage, placekick, just about all of ‘em. That reflects both his skills and his smarts to slot in all sorts of settings.
Funny thing, though. Guess what is Jones' favorite position to play? "Ohhh, I like the inside a lot. Because of its physicalness, you know?" he smiles. "That's where the most physical part is." Now, in the SEC there are not a lot of 6-0 guys engaged in true trench combat which means Jones is a standout, so to speak. But that is the real point, why he takes such outsized pride in proving he can battle with the bigger boys. Why Jones belongs alongside Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd, too.
"Yeah, I can measure myself up to them."
Speaking of ‘alongside', whose side will Jones be along? Wilson's basic sort of scheme has Boyd as something resembling a nose guard while Cox is on the far side of center. But again that's just the base from which a bunch of sets multiply. Generally Jones expects most use as a three-technique man.
"In three-technique I guess you're trying to get more one-on-one blocks. And we want to keep the ends occupied."
Ends of the offensive line, he means and Wilson affirms. Having a dominating interior pair like Boyd and Cox ought to require extra blocking help, leaving the true ends--or a quick, smart smallish tackle such as Jones—with just one blocker to beat. That is the plan anyway, per Wilson.
"Our deal is we just have to get more consistent on the perimeter as far as developing those guys that can win one-on-one situations. Because Josh and Fletcher demand three players at all times really blocking them."
Oh, and getting back to that ‘multiple' mentality… State fans have learned how offensive line coach John Hevesy wants each blocker on the field to understand what his four cohorts are doing. It is a similar story on the other side of the trench.
"Coach Wilson is a smart coach, a great coach and he does a great job teaching all of us all of it," Jones relates. Of course this holds especially true for a lineman like Jones who really could end up playing all of it; tackle, end, nose, the whole checklist.
"Coach Wilson does a great job of teaching me technique and fundamentals," says Jones. "He knows that I'm a small guy playing inside sometimes and he does a tremendous job of working me with ways I can keep myself squared in the hole and everything. So my hat goes off to Coach Wilson for teaching me."
With teaching time coming to an end and kickoff fast approaching, Bulldog defenders expect to finally start knocking hats off. That is Jones' plan, from whatever position he begins. "When coach says go in, we go in!"