Jones Keeps Fast Freshman Pace For Bowl Camp

With all he did during the season, and the recognitions received after it, one might think Chris Jones would be cut some bowl camp slack, right? Wrong. Because as everyone else left for a warm locker room and dinner, there was Jones doing up-downs. "I had a little punishment after practice, for loafing."

Yes, Mississippi State's rising star at defensive tackle had been noticed going a little lax on a play by line coach David Turner, as had fellow tackle Nick James. The penalty for both was diving to the turf at ever five-yard mark until they'd gone the full length of a frigid field. And yet as they were finally excused, neither seemed the least Bulldog-bit bothered.

In fact, Jones was grinning about it all. It's just all in the game, I still love him though!" Not only grinning but literally steaming after working up a sweat in the 30s-degree conditions.

Of course it was his sizzling freshman pace in the regular season that brought Jones such attention after it. He was named All-SEC Freshman by the league's coaches, and earned similar accolades around the nation with all-rookie mentions. Now here he is, still in the same calendar year he graduated high school preparing for a college bowl game.

And know what? One of the finest freshmen in many a Mississippi State season isn't satisfied. So much as his coaches will push him during drills, Jones is going to keep pushing himself to take that proverbial next step to finish the first Bulldog year and get ready for even bigger things ahead.

The Bulldogs continue their camp with a Monday afternoon practice, with preparations for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl going all through this week.

How do you feel about being named Freshman All-SEC? "I had a lot of expectations. My biggest expectation was to make the first-team, but I didn't do that. I got honorable mention, a lot of people congratulate me on that. I'm not really accepting it because I feel I can work harder. Throughout the year I developed and this year should be a wonderful year because off-season we're going to work hard and then try to make this a wonderful group." What is it like reaching a bowl your first year? "I mean it's exciting to see the experience. I've never been to a bowl game, so that's going to be wonderful. And just to get out here and have fun and get to go do different places and experience things, that's wonderful."

Last year this weekend you were in an all-star game, now you're getting ready for a bowl game? "Yeah, I was just thinking about it yesterday. I was watching the Mississippi-Alabama game and I was thinking a year later, man, I was in that game. You know, time flies! It flies, man!"

Is there anything you are trying to get done in these practices? "Basically I'm trying to work on my teammates and get them better. The harder I can go the better they can get, you know, going against guys somewhat like me. The harder I go the harder I make them go, so that's what we're trying to do here, is push each other."

Have you tried talking them into giving you some defensive end reps? "Yeah, they going to give me some d-end reps! But we were a man down today, I told them just keep me in at tackle. But probably on certain downs and certain plays I play defensive end, whatever they want to do with me."

Have you had a chance to look at what you thought you did well this season? "You know, I haven't really had a chance just to sit down and see what I did well. Because we're always busy with stuff. If it ain't this, it's this. So I really haven't had time to sit down and think about it."

Plus you had final exams last week? "Yeah, we're just coming off exams. I don't know how I did on that, pray the Lord I did pretty good!"

The defense always goes nuts after practice turnovers, why is that so important? "We try to keep each other up. Because when one player makes a play the whole defense is making a play. And we keep it like that throughout the game, we all get emotional and just keep each other up you know? Even when we're down and somebody makes a play, we all made a play."

Has there been anything to your college experience that was a surprise? "It's mostly what I expected. But it's wonderful, I love it man. This is way different from high school, a different environment, game pace, everything is just different. It's way faster. And you have to be on your Ps and Qs because people are always coming in to take your position. You've always got to stay above-par."

You're focused on the bowl game but looking at next year what will Nick James add to the mix? "Oh, man, the defensive line next year, it's going to be miraculous. Because we've got Nick, Quay (Evans), and we've got the EMCC guy coming in at d-tackle. And I'm moving back to end! (laughing) So it's going to be wonderful, me and Preston Smith! Yeah, I've just been waiting on Nick! So we're going to be wonderful, it's going to be an excellent group. We've got to push ourselves to work hard at it because it's not going to come as easy because we have the talent here. So the harder we work the better we're going to be."

Which is why they tell a Freshman All-SEC he has to still run punishment, to keep you level headed? "Oh yes sir. No one is above the team, you know. If I get in trouble I don't mind punishment. Now I might mess with Coach (David) Turner about it but hey, it's all in the game! You mess up it's consequences to everything and you have to do what you have to do."

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