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MSU's Jones adjusting to faster pace in college

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- Like every other Mississippi State University football player, Chris Jones is weighed before and after practice. 

 

But Jones' weight has become a focus of conversation for the MSU coaches, who may opt to use the five-start recruit from Houston right from the start. 

 

"If and when he becomes too heavy, I'll let him know, but we haven't reached that point," MSU defensive line coach David Turner said. "When he gets too thin, he'll probably come and let me know, but I promise you we haven't reached that point." 

 

Jones, who played at 250 pounds at Houston High School, weighed "closer to 300 pounds," according to Turner, when he arrived at school. Turner believes that is a weight Jones will be able to handle this season.  

 

MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said after a recent two-a-day practice that Jones weighed 282 pounds. He acknowledged the 18-year-old Jones already is one of the team's biggest outside defensive linemen. 

 

"He's a freak, and we believe he can effectively play at around 300 pounds at defensive end this season," Collins said. "He's still athletic and can physically move at that weight, so we're not concerned." 

 

If Jones maintains his current physique, he will weigh more than starting junior defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls and 50 pounds more than defensive ends A.J. Jefferson and Ryan Brown. 

 

"We joke with him, you're going to be a three-technique in the future," junior defensive lineman P.J. Jones said. "He's like, 'No, I'm going to play defensive end!' I was like, 'Man, you weigh more than the inside guy.' " 

 

Turner said Jones' problem isn't weight but a lack of understanding of the level he needs to play at to compete in the Southeastern Conference. Turner recently said to the media after a closed practice that Jones was still stuck in "high school mode" nearly a month into fall camp. 

 

"We need to get him to understand the speed of the game here and what's required and the amount of intensity and the amount of effort he's got to play with," Turner said. 

 

Jones' inexperience and work rate kept him with the fourth-team defense in the first week of practice. During that time, MSU coaches, including coach Dan Mullen, spent individual time with Jones to show him fundamentals because he won't be able to dominate offensive linemen with his size and strength like he did in high school. 

 

"I thought there was no way I could play with these guys," P.J. Jones said about his freshman season last year where he played 12 games (one start). "I went up against some horses. I just did wrong. I was like, 'Dang, is it me? Do I suck? No. It's just because I'm young.' " 

 

Jones' status grew during the recruiting process and he climbed to the nation's No. 2 prospect, according to 247Sports.com, behind University of Mississippi signee Robert Nkemdiche. Jones also was named the top-rated player in the state of Mississippi by nearly every publication. 

 

Nine days ago, CBSSports.com reported the NCAA interviewed Jones about Ole Miss' recruitment of him. MSU officials directed Jones to Starkville-based attorney John F. "Jay" Perry for consultation on the matter. 

 

"I received death threats, insane messages, you name it," Jones told ESPN.com. "It has not been as stressful as people would think it has been. I have tried to handle it in the most comfortable way possible, so it has really been all right for me, and in the end, I am very blessed to have this opportunity to play for either in-state school." 

 

At Houston High, Jones led the team in tackles as a defensive end with 160. He also had 14 sacks, 10 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second-round playoff matchup with Louisville High. 

 

"He's strong. He's athletic. He's powerful. He's got a lot of talent," Turner said. 

 

After Turner complimented Jones four times in 10 seconds, the 27-year college coach flipped the perspective. 

 

"Other than that, he's an average player," Turner said with a smile.

 

 

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