Jones finds a home ... maybe

Last fall Mark Jones was the Vol football team's version of a perpetual motion machine. He played nickel back. He played strong safety. He played free safety. He played cornerback. He returned punts and kickoffs. He covered punts and kickoffs. He even found time to get some practice work as a receiver.

This spring, though, the 5-9, 185-pound rising senior is working exclusively at receiver as the Vols seek playmakers for their passing game. So, has Jones finally found a spot he can play exclusively?

''No,'' he says. ''I'm glad I get to move around a lot. My lack of size limits me, but I can't let it.''

Jones spent a week at wideout last fall but quickly returned to safety, where he remained the rest of the season. Why?

''Playing time probably,'' he says. ''All the effort and time that I put into learning the defense was going to get me on the field a little faster.''

This spring he's a full-time offensive player but that could change by fall.

''This spring it will be all receiver,'' he said. ''Of course, we will have to see what happens when two-a-days rolls around.''

Although he has been limited by a groin pull, Jones has been working to regain the pass-catching skills that made him a heralded high school receiver back in Wallingford, Pa.

''About two weeks ago I went out with Casey (Clausen) and started running some routes,'' he said. ''I knew the basics of the offense, but he is helping me with some of the more in-depth stuff. I just need to work on being able to break press coverage.''

Like his teammates, Jones was disappointed with last season's 8-5 record. He says the Vols are taking steps to make sure there isn't a repeat in 2003. Unity is a key.

''In the offseason we try to go out on an outing together and eat,'' he said. ''Last year we all talked about it, and then when it came up nobody really did anything. This year we are coordinating it so everyone can get together and just grow as a football team.''


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