Kendell Jones spent last season learning how to handle the demands of a college student athlete. With that year of transition now under his belt, Jones believes he is ready to help the Bulldogs win some ball games this season.
"I feel like I am really developing right now," Jones said. "At this point in time, I am just trying to earn a role on the defense. I have a lot of seniors in front of me, so I am just learning as much as I can and trying to find a role to help the defense.
"It is good to be able to sit behind a senior and learn by looking at the things that they're doing. When it's your time to go, you already know what to do by looking at the veterans."
As a newcomer to the Mississippi State football family, Jones was fortunate enough to have some of the Bulldog defensive leaders take him under their wings and help him learn the Mississippi State way. Now that relentless effort is more than just a T-shirt slogan, Jones is grateful to his mentors in Maroon.
"A.J. Jefferson and Cory Thomas were the main two," Jones said. "I really watched them and picked up on their playing style. I just like how they play the game and all of the things they do. Even now, they correct me on what I am doing wrong. They are always giving me tips on what to do and what not to do."
Jones lined up as a defensive tackle in the Bulldogs' four man during his first year in Starkville. The move from the three technique to lining up over the ball has taken the Alabama native some getting used to.
"It's a real transition, but there are a lot of things that are the same," Jones said. "Playing defensive tackle sort of goes hand in hand with playing in the 3-4. You line up somewhere different, but you do a lot of the same things."
The Bulldog defensive overhaul has players walking around the Seal football complex like they know something many others do not. Jones reports that Bulldog fans and opponents will be let in on the big secret sooner rather than later.
"There is a lot of moving around and there are a lot of stunts that we do," Jones shared. "I feel like that makes the whole defense fun. I know I am enjoying it and we do some different things on the defensive line."
In the final dress rehearsal for the 2016 season, the Bulldogs went through a full scrimmage just over a week ago. Jones reports that the team showed marked improvement over their efforts a week before.
"The defense was flying around to the ball and the offense was making some plays down the field," Jones said. "I feel like it was a pretty good second scrimmage. There are still some things we can improve on, but it was a good scrimmage on both sides of the ball."
With fall camp over and game week here, Jones has done his best to show the Mississippi State coaching staff that he is ready to see the field this fall. While the depth chart for week one is set, Jones plans to continue to work hard to earn some game day reps.
"I am going to keep going hard in practice and work hard on the things that I need to improve on as well as the things I do best," Jones said. "I just want to be ready for game week and the game day situations. I want to be ready when they call for me."
Mississippi State will host South Alabama on Saturday September 3rd. Kickoff is set for 11 AM and tickets remain available. The Bulldogs, heavy favorites at home, are looking to improve their All-Time record against the visiting Jaguars to 3-0.