Kellen Jones Fitting Right in at Wisconsin

Although he is on his fourth difference FBS program in the last five years, inside linebacker Kellen Jones feels he has found a home at Wisconsin.

MADISON - Change and transition have been one of the major storylines surrounding the University of Wisconsin football program over the last nine months, as the Badgers begin fall camp Monday with their third different head coach in the last four seasons.

It’s a revolving door that inside linebacker Kellen Jones can relate to, as he’s now settling in to his fourth football program in five years.

But if the 6-0, 230-pound Jones – the newest addition to Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense – is discouraged by his frequent change in address, his bright smile doesn’t lead on to it.

“I’ve learned a great deal,” said Jones during Wisconsin’s annual media day. “I’ve learned different aspects of college football, learned to be coachable and really matured from a kid young and naïve to one beginning to make the right decisions.”

Jones – a former four-star prospect out of Houston St. Pius X – signed with Michigan out of high school in 2011 but transferred to Oklahoma prior to the start of his true freshman season. After playing 12 games with the Sooners in 2011, Jones moved on to Clemson, where he sat out 2012 per NCAA rules, played in 11 games in 2013 before tearing his ACL and 13 games last season.

After graduating this spring with a degree in economics and a minor in athletic leadership, Jones wanted to continue playing football and knew that a fresh start would likely be the best opportunity. Preparing to start contacting coaches who had previously recruited him, Jones recognized outside linebacker coach Tim Tibesar’s name on the Wisconsin coaching roster.

Tibesar first got to know Jones when he was the defensive coordinator at Purdue. Jones looked hard at the Boilermakers out of high school and returned with his family during the transfer process. Jones sent Tibear an email in midsummer and got the ball rolling.

“I was looking for a new beginning,” said Jones, who will pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership at UW. “I know Coach Tibesar is a good dude. I know Coach Alvarez is a legendary coach here. Wisconsin did really well last year beating Auburn in the bowl game and it’s a great academic school for me to get my master’s degree here.”

According to Tibesar, Jones brings experience, intelligence and some playmaking ability to the linebackers. Although playing only 176 snaps over the last two seasons, Jones had 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in 33 plays against South Carolina State in 2013 and three games with at least five tackles last season.

While junior Leon Jacobs and redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards both played solidly at the inside positions in the spring, Tibesar said the staff felt the position was missing some game experience and a veteran presence.

“As a staff we feel it’s a good fit and the right position,” said Tibesar. “Of all the difference places Kellen has been, nobody has doubted his football talent. He makes plays on the football field. Having a prior relationship with him helped me understand why he’s been through the amount of schools he’s been. Hearing it from him rather than second or third person was big. We did our research and followed up on him to have a better understanding of the player we were going to get.”

Since arriving late last month, Jones has been living with outside linebacker Vince Biegel, who has shown him around campus and helped him get comfortable with the playbook.

“He’s welcomed me with open arms,” said Jones.

All that’s left now is to put on the pads and help his new teammates get ready for No.3 Alabama on Sept.5.

“I feel like there’s a great opportunity there,” said Jones. “I’m going to try to make the best of it.”

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