Christian Jones is ready to break out.
With all the preseason hype surrounding the Florida State defensive line and the turmoil in the Seminole secondary, the linebacking corps has stayed under the radar for most of camp.
But quietly, the 6-4, 230-pound junior linebacker is poised for a huge year.
“I don’t really get caught up in what people say outside [the locker room],” Jones said. “I feel like we get too caught up in that sometimes [as a team]. That’s what distracted us last year. This year we’re more focused and we’re taking it one week at a time.”
Will I am
Jones has avoided reading press clippings and listening to media hype, instead focusing on a position change from the strong-side linebacker position (Sam) to the weak-side position (Will).
Nigel Bradham played Will for the Seminoles last season. He was drafted by Buffalo in April, and now it’s up to Jones to replace him.
“One thing he told me is get ready because you’re going to like that spot,” said Jones, when asked what advice Bradham had offered him. “So far, it’s been great.”
In addition to bolstering his statistics, the change of position should free Jones to use his natural athleticism more. Historically, at Florida State the Will linebacker has been a playmaker.
In Jones’ place, senior Nick Moody has moved from safety to strong-side linebacker.
“Nick’s more of a cover guy, and it’s good he’s in the Sam spot,” Jones said. “And I feel like I can be a playmaker, so the Will spot is perfect.”
Jones will need to be up to the task, because the Will spot in the Florida State defense is extremely demanding.
“That weak-side linebacker spot on that boundary side, man that gets attacked a lot,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Fisher thinks Jones is perfectly suited for the role.
“Christian, with his size and length in there in the box and getting those hands up in those screen lanes, he’s great in one-on-one coverage,” Fisher said. “Covering the pass with athleticism and ball skills down the field, he’s one of the best [pure linebackers] I’ve been around.”
Last year on the strong side, Jones started all 13 games and finished second on the team in tackles (56) while notching three sacks and forcing two fumbles. This year, his numbers should be even better.
“[In the past] he was in space, he was more of almost like a nickel guy at times,” Fisher said. “But his tackles should significantly go up because he’s in the box.”
For his part, Jones is excited; he likes the challenge of covering the boundary side of the field and thinks his athleticism lends itself well to protecting the Seminoles’ weak side.
“I can cover more tight ends and use my body more on the boundary,” Jones said. “I’ll just be more effective on that side.
“I feel more comfortable in this position. I think I’m going to have a good year this year.”