Sophomore Al'Dreecous Wilson (5-11, 175) of Opelika, Alabama, returns and will be the 'Bobcat' safety. Wilson is the team's leading returning tackler from 2014. He had 40 tackles last year and also led the team in interceptions with three.
Second-year JCJC assistant coach Chip Bilderback is thrilled to have Wilson's leadership in the secondary.
"Al'Dreecous is very football savvy," said Bilderback, who coaches the Bobcat safeties and also serves as recruiting coordinator. "He started all of last year. He was our utility guy and could play safety or corner.
"This year we are using him pretty much as our 'Bobcat,' which is the weakside safety in our defensive scheme. He comes from a good high school where he was coached well. He is our anchor in the back end because of his experience. He has a good knack for finding the ball and reading the quarterback."
Behind Wilson will be Pascagoula freshman Ramon Patton (6-0, 215).
"Ramon was with us in the spring," Bilderback said. "He has really improved so much since January. He will factor in a lot either as 'Bobcat' or free safety. With his development, all Ramon needs is experience. He is very good against the run and fast enough to be good against the pass as well.
"In terms of ball skills, he is probably the best secondary guy we have."
Two sophomores are battling for the starting free safety spot.
Denver Magee (6-2, 210) of North Forrest and Jamal Blackwell (5-10, 165) of Mize both bring strong points to the table. Magee played wide receiver last year, while Blackwell saw plenty of playing time at cornerback.
"Both of those guys have really improved," Bilderback said. "Jamal can play corner or safety. We made the transition with him last week and gave him more reps at safety because of his cover skills. With Denver, you are getting a bigger body kid and with Jamal you are getting a great cover guy.
"Denver made the switch from receiver last year to safety in the spring. He has had all spring to learn the position. He can come down in the box and stop the run. In Jamal, you have a smaller body, but a better cover guy. We are getting the best of both worlds with those two guys."
Bilderback said both Magee and Blackwell have dedicated themselves to become better players.
"Both had great summers where they worked extremely hard," he said. "They both made the commitment to come here in June on their own time and work, so that gives both of them the right to be on the field."
A third safety who will play is Poplarville freshman Anthony Martin (6-3, 200). Bilderback said Martin just needs experience.
"We are expecting a big future from Anthony," he said. "He is just adapting to the style of offenses you see week in and week out in the league. He had a great career at Poplarville and he is a big safety. He also moves fairly well.
"His learning curve is just adjusting to these offenses. At Poplarville, he did not face as many spread offenses as he will see here. But he comes to work every day and does the best that he can.
"Overall, we have a good group of safeties that work extremely hard and have bought in to what we are trying to do."
It's a team coaching effort when it comes to the JCJC defensive backs. Bilderback works with the 'Bobcat' and free safeties, while defensive coordinator Steve Boyd works with the cornerbacks and strong safeties.
Bilderback is excited about the potential of this year's secondary.
"We have a really coachable group," he said. "They have bought in to what Coach Boyd and I want in the secondary. It will give us a lot of options because I think we can play a lot of guys back there this year.
"We were more limited back there last year, but we have more guys this year who understand what we are doing and can move fast enough for us. They are all high character guys and that makes it easier on our part. It helps them understand a little bit more of what we are trying to accomplish on defense with our scheme."
Jones started the season with a 42-20 loss to Northwest Mississippi last Saturday. This Thursday, the Bobcats will face off against Itawamba on the road.