August 18, 2018 10:25:14 PM
STARKVILLE -- Coaches estimate special teams account for 15 to 20 percent of plays in a game.
That math held up in the Southeastern Conference, where special teams units took the field for 18.75 percent of plays. That facet of the game gives dedicated special teams coordinators, which the SEC now has five, plenty of time to prepare.
It also gives those coordinators time to use when their teams aren't practicing special teams. Mississippi State has the perfect man to do more with that down time.
Joey Jones might be a special teams enthusiast, but he is far from a specialist. His 25 years of experience as a head coach make him a valuable resource for MSU coach Joe Moorhead.
"We've asked coach Jones when it's non-special teams drills to walk around and make notes," Moorhead said, noting Jones is one of four former head coaches on staff. Quarterbacks coach Andrew Breiner, tight ends coach Mark Hudspeth, and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop are the others. "Like anything, you don't know everything and when you can fall back on the experience of those guys, I think that benefits everybody."
Jones was a head coach for three seasons at Dora (Ala.) High School. He then spent 10 years as a head coach at Mountain Brook (Ala.) High. His success there earned him a shot to re-start the football program at Birmingham-Southern College. In 2007, Jones was hired to start the football program at South Alabama. The Jaguars went 7-0 in their first season in 2009. All told, Jones went 52-50 and led South Alabama to two bowl appearances in nine seasons.
"One thing (Moorhead) asks me to do during practice is walk around, look at every athlete, and evaluate them," Jones said. "I go through every cornerback, every linebacker, every safety and try to find a guy that maybe we've overlooked. I've never had the opportunity to do that, and it's been helpful. We had three or four guys that weren't on our list that are now on our list and fighting for spots.
"Coach Moorhead is very open to suggestions. He's a smart man. He understands what he wants to do, but he takes input from us and we try to help any way we can. As assistant coaches, all we try to do is make him look good. That's my job, and that's my role."
Sharing his expertise elsewhere hasn't come at the expense of his special teams players.
Sophomore kicker Jace Christmann was optimistic when he first heard of the hiring. In doing research about Jones, Christmann discovered South Alabama was ranked seventh in the nation as a special teams unit. His conversations with Jones have only reinforced the statistics.
"He can talk and make you believe something you never thought you would believe," Christmann said. "The whole special teams side is so much more organized that it was before."
Jones said Moorhead gives him the freedom to run the special teams and to provide feedback, which is why he was willing to take the position. He knew the man he is working for would give him what he needs.
"In all my years of coaching, I do think there are a few elites in the coaching world," Jones said. "There's no doubt in my mind coach Moorhead is one of those guys. He understands football, understands motivation of young men, understands how to organize practices. He checks all the boxes, and I want to thank him for that."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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