Jones stuck around for 1 more stellar season
EAST LANSING, MICH. (AP) - Greg Jones is a difficult player to satisfy, and that might be the biggest reason he’s still at Michigan State, chasing opposing quarterbacks all over the field.
Jones could have turned pro after last season, when he was an All-American as a junior, but the linebacker decided to stick with the Spartans. Even now, he’s not entirely impressed with all his accomplishments.
“I wanted to make more plays. I wanted to cause more turnovers,” Jones said. “At the same time, I felt I made my teammates better.”
Jones can be as modest as he wants, but there’s no denying his status as one of the nation’s most respected defensive players. He was selected as an All-American again this month, the only player to make the AP first team each of the last two seasons, and his return was a big reason the seventh-ranked Spartans won a share of the Big Ten title.
They’ll play 15th-ranked Alabama on Saturday in the Capital One Bowl, giving Jones exactly what he wanted when he came back to school _ a chance to go out on a high note.
Jones has started 39 consecutive games for Michigan State, teaming up with fellow linebacker Eric Gordon to form an impressive tandem in the middle of the defense. Jones had nine sacks last season, but the Spartans struggled to a 6-7 record.
“I just didn’t want to leave with that record. … That was real rough for me to swallow,” Jones said. “To leave 11-1 or 12-1 or whatever, is very important.”
After returning to the Spartans, Jones led an experienced defense that contained Wisconsin and made Michigan’s Denard Robinson look ordinary early this season. Wins over those two teams helped Michigan State to an 11-1 record heading into the bowl.
The 6-foot-1 Jones has played at around 240 pounds this year. He says he weighed about 220 last season. His next challenge will be to help slow down running back Mark Ingram and the Crimson Tide.
“They’ve been difficult to run against,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They have a good front seven. That’s probably the strength of their defensive team, up front.”
Although his team is winning, Jones‘ individual numbers declined a bit this season. He came up with the first two interceptions of his career but has only one sack and considerably fewer tackles than either of the last two seasons. Jones has high expectations for himself, but he understands why he’s had a hard time dominating in 2010 and figures he’s getting good preparation for the NFL.
“They double teamed a lot, teams schemed against me a lot,” Jones said. “I feel like once I get to that level, you’re playing with so many other great players, it will be a lot easier.”
Gordon concurs with that view.
“I’ve never seen someone so good at getting off blocks,” he said. “I think he’ll be fine. He’s a hard worker and definitely puts in a lot of time watching film. Football’s what he loves to do, and he has a passion for it.”
To his credit, Jones hasn’t seemed too consumed with his pro prospects, focusing instead on Michigan State’s run at a conference title. Instead of leaving after a losing season, he has enjoyed a memorable final year.