Jones Does his Talkng on the Field

A.J. Jones

A.J. Jones doesn't talk much in the team meeting rooms or the hallways of the Florida football facility. He keeps to himself and gets his work done. On the field, his teammates struggle to recognize him. The words Jones doesn't use throughout the week all come out Saturdays on the field.

"On the field, I'm kind of a motor mouth," A.J. Jones said. "I might not be like Spikes, but the person I'm going against, I like to get in their grill and try to get in their head. That's different. I'm just chilling in the meeting rooms, but when I get on the field I'm a whole different animal. You've got to know when to turn it on and off."

Jones has been forced to turn it on more off the field this season. With the graduation of Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper and Dustin Doe, Jones moves into a key leadership role for the linebackers in his senior season.

Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic will see consistent playing time this year after only seeing the field in blowouts last seasons. There is still mentoring to be done. Luckily for Jones, he experienced a perfect example of leadership when he was a freshman.

Earl Everett worked closely with Jones in 2006.

"Earl used to tell me go hard every play and don't take a play off," Jones said. "Watching film, the little things where a ball squirts out, you could be there if you just went a little harder. I pride myself on going hard every play. Now, it's really relevant because if I go hard, the rest of the linebackers want to go hard. I can get on them now."

Everett's message was simple. Regardless of how well freshmen know the playbook, time in the film room and maximum effort can fix a lot of issues.

"I tell all these boys to sit back, watch your mistakes and try to learn from them," Jones said. "I learned from stuff I did wrong in the past."

During that freshman season, Jones showed up in Gainesville weighing 178 pounds. The coaches went back and forth trying to decide what position to play him at. Jones started at safety, only to move up to linebacker because he played aggressive.

The only caveat was the necessary weight gain. However, that didn't take long. Jones started as a redshirt freshman and currently plays at 227 pounds. Jones heads into this season with a team-high 29 defensive starts in his career. Despite that, he is one of the less heralded players nationally.

And he couldn't be more content with it.

"I just want to go out and play," Jones said. "Every year I base myself on getting better than last year. From my redshirt freshman year on, you just learn different stuff."

This offseason forced Jones to learn more than ever. New linebackers coach D.J. Durkin forced all of his players to learn the three linebacker positions. The idea was to have depth to get the best players on the field in case of injury. It gave better perspective of the grand scheme of the defense to the players.

"It makes you a better player," Jones said. "I was focusing on one position, but now that I know all of them, it makes me have a better understanding of the defense. When you move inside, you've got to know what the d-line and secondary is doing."

Head coach Urban Meyer mentioned multiple times last season the importance of linebacker Ryan Stamper. Not only was he a senior, but he also was one of the few on the team who knew the three linebacker positions. That helped him understand what the secondary and defensive linemen were responsible for.

"I see why Stamp was such a big part of this defense because he knew everything," Jones said. "With all of us learning all the positions, it helps us out on the field. We've got about five or six (Stampers) now."
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