Michigan State's Greg Jones, Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
If there's one player Michigan State's Greg Jones models his game on, it's former Spartan star Ike Reese.
"Just natural ability, just seeing him play, he's another Cincinnati guy like myself. I got to meet him at the Penn State game last year," Jones said about Reese, who played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons; earning a 2004 Pro Bowl slot on special teams. Today, Reese hosts his own show, "Ike at Night" on 610 WIP in Philadelphia. But Jones himself probably knows a thing or two about the mainstream media, as he's getting lots of love from it.
The All-American candidate was selected by the media as the preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He enters his third season starting at linebacker in East Lansing and also on the watch list for three national awards: Butkus (top collegiate linebacker), Lombardi (college lineman of the year) and the Lott (defensive player of the year). Rivals.com lists him as the 39th-best player in college football; Sporting News picked him as the Big Ten's "hardest hitter." Jones is also ESPN.com's 11th best player in the Big Ten. So obviously lots of football geeks think he's a great linebacker, but how does he define what makes a linebacker great or not?
"The same thing you would see, a guy who makes plays every time, he's consistent, he's burning down the field, he's everywhere," Jones said. "The guy who never takes a play off and if he does miss a tackler, he's the guy who's right there getting a tackle for a loss or a sack on the next play."
His position coach described him as "an instinctive player with a great motor" and "a relentless competitor who never gives up on a play." The 6-1, 223 pound junior has a tremendous NFL potential (often projected in the second-third rounds, and in the top five of 2010 NFL Draft outside linebacker lists). At Big Ten Media Day, I asked him what his greatest strengths are, and he told me it was stopping the run.
I also asked him what parts of his game needs help.
"I want to work on the pass because I feel like I wasn't effective enough in coverage I didn't get a whole lot of turnovers, I just want to be a factor in the passing game, I feel I want to be more of a factor in the passing game," Jones responded.
Jones was moved from the outside to the middle, and it's expected that we might see him do more stunting this year.
"It all depends on what Coach Narduzzi wants to do," Jones continued. "If he wants to blitz or just play base, a lot of times coach will just say 'hey, we're doing so good at base, we're not going to switch it up unless I need to.' He's very smart about that."
At Media Day, Jones' head coach, Mark Dantonio described how good Jones might become.
"What I see in Greg is a tremendous work ethic," Dantonio said. "He's an excellent leader. What you see on game field is what you see in practice. The great ones that I've been around, that's what happens. They practice just like they play, so it becomes a habit to play at that level of competitiveness.
"I think right now what you're seeing from Greg Jones is he's beginning to attract attention," Dantonio continued. "I think he was a first-team All-Big Ten player last year, but he's beginning to attract more attention, and that's good for not only Michigan State, Greg Jones, our defense, the type of defense we run. Pat Narduzzi, our coordinator and Mike Tressel our linebacker coach, have done an outstanding job with him. He will continue to improve, and that's the beauty of it. He's only going to be a junior, so again, he's a younger player, as well."