STARKVILLE – If patience is indeed a virtue then consider Chris Jones virtuous.
For the last two years, Jones has been biding his time as upperclassmen Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones played ahead of him on Mississippi State’s defensive line.
With those two now graduated, Chris Jones will finally have his chance as a full-time starter for the Bulldogs.
“I’ve been waiting on my shot since I was a freshman,” Jones said. “I came in with the mentality to start from the beginning and this is my opportunity to show it.”
Jones has appeared in all 26 games of his career and earned three starts as a freshman. He has recorded 58 tackles, 10.5 for loss and six sacks during that span splitting time between defensive tackle and end.
His numbers declined as a sophomore last season. He made six less tackles and 3.5 fewer stops behind the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-5, 308-pounder expects to see improvement in his statistics under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
“Coach Diaz’s scheme is a lot of blitzing,” Jones said. “We get to the quarterback a lot with him and have more time because the quarterback is holding the ball. It gives us a better pass rush.”
Jones has worked solely as a defensive tackle this spring but still hopes that Diaz will give him a few reps on the edge in the fall.
The former five-star prospect and Under Armour All-American from Houston was the No. 2 overall recruit nationally in the 2013 class. Jones understands the expectation level was set highly for him and is working each day to raise it.
“I just want to be the best,” he said. “I know other guys everywhere else are steadily working. I just want to outwork myself and continually grind. I don’t even want to think someone is outworking me.”
There has been speculation that Jones could declare for the 2016 NFL Draft if he has a good junior season. He admits he has entertained the idea but would rather spend his energy focusing on what he can presently control.
“Anything can happen from this year into next year,” Jones said. “I just try to worry about what’s going on right now. If the opportunity comes for me to leave early, that’s something I’ll discuss with coach (Dan) Mullen and my family. Other than that, I’m just worried about right now.”