Working to Be the Man

Houston, Mississippi native Chris Jones joined the Mississippi State program as a high school All-American with five stars to his name. Jones has proven to be more than a flash in the proverbial pan and is now poised to take over full time as a starter at defensive tackle. The full time pressure and spotlight await Jones who reports he is more than ready for the challenge.

"The spring is going pretty well," Jones said. "I have lost weight and got my technique a lot better. I gave more effort to the ball, so it's been going pretty good."

With the departure of starters Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones, the junior standout is the next man up in what appears to be a very talented depth chart at defensive tackle.

"I have been looking forward to getting my shot since I was a true freshman," Jones said. "I came in with the mentality that I wanted to start from the beginning. This is my opportunity to show.

Now an upperclassmen with two years of SEC experience under his belt, Jones is doing his part to show the ropes to the newcomers looking to now follow in his footsteps.

"You can look at the younger guys now and tell them something," Jones explained. "The game slows down and you mostly know everything now. Now it's about putting in the scheme and utilizing it."

Scheme is the order of the spring as it pertains to defense. With Manny Diaz returning to the Bulldog staff, some changes to how the defense operates have been implemented.

"Coach Diaz likes to do with his scheme with a lot of players blitzing," Jones said. "It's pretty good. We get to the quarterback a lot with him. We have more time with the quarterback holding the ball. It gives us a better pass rush and it gives us more time to get to the quarterback.

"We learn something new everyday with that guy. It's amazing. With his scheme, I trust in his scheme and wherever he puts me I feel like he will put me in a position to make a play."

Jones was part of the "1B" defensive alignment last fall. While that unit took some lumps at times, the true game reps have prepared them for action as starters this fall.

"That was very beneficial, because those guys get to experience what the game is like," Jones said. "Just putting them out there no matter what game it was....experience is experience. Once you have experience, you know basically what it's like. The game is a lot different than practice. You put them in the stadium in front of 50,000 or 60,000 and the mind can go crazy.

"In practice, in front of about 200 people, you have time to think. In a game, it goes so much faster than in practice."

Jones, now a veteran, is still a work in progress by his own admission. Heading into the 2015 season, Jones reports that his defensive line boss, David Turner, continues to find ways for him to improve.

"Giving more relentless effort," Jones said almost as a mantra of sorts. "That's what it's all been about. One of the main things about it is your technique even when you're tired. I just try to be consistently good. Once you become consistently good everyday you will become great."

The spot next to Jones is now filled by Nick James. The heavily recruited and highly heralded Long Beach, Mississippi product has worked hard to stay in good graces with the coaching staff. Heading into the spring game, James is running first team.

"You never know what you are going to get out of Nick," Jones said with a grin. "You're going to get a bunch of hollering. He's progressing a lot though. He's got his technique better and he's giving more relentless effort. He's lost a lot of weight and that is a big thing for this program.

"If you get him going, I don't see anybody who can stop him. He's doing pretty good. He's learned his plays, so it's been going pretty good."

The Bulldog offense had the better of things in scrimmage one, but the defensive unit struck back last weekend. With the series essentially tied at one, the annual Maroon and White game will likely give one unit bragging rights heading into summer workouts.

"We kind of got out juice back, our momentum back and our swagger back in the second one," Jones said. "The spring game should be exciting."

Over the course of the spring, some selected defensive players have been a little chippy with senior quarterback Dak Prescott. Jones reports that the spirited competition is designed to make players on both sides of the exchange better.

"We like getting in Dak's head," Jones grinned. "Football is a physical game, but it's also a mental game. Once you get into their head, you can see how they perform under pressure. We like getting in Dak's head, bumping him around and getting him mad. We aren't just making ourselves better, we're making him better also.

"After the play, after he throws the ball, we try to give him a little nudge or something. He will look at you or try to throw the ball at your head or something. If you sack him, you try to push him in the head. We're not trying to hurt him, just rough him up."

The competition and rough housing is all in good nature, but Jones reports that Prescott gets in some shots of his own during these "confrontations".

"Let me tell you about Dak," Jones said with a laugh. "That guy runs the ball through the middle, but he's the quarterback. Who wants to hit him? He'll lower his shoulder on me every now and again and I have to tell him, 'Dak, calm down. It's just practice, we're not trying to hurt you.'. We are just trying to get him better.

"No one wants to hit their quarterback. Any little thing can turn into a big thing. Just grabbing him by the leg, he could break a leg or pop a knee out of place. We try to look out for that. We try to keep our guys injury free. Coach Mullen tells us to just go up and 'thud' him up and be in a good tackling position. We just try to be safe about that."

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