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February 20, 2009
OXFORD, Miss. - Jason Jones was ready to throw in the towel during a recent offseason workout.
Allen Walker wouldn't let him. So Jones persevered, pushed through and completed the exercise in question.
Less than seven months away from the start of the 2009 football season, Jones' development has transitioned from a pleasant surprise to a critical necessity.
"Right now, it's still a process of learning," said Jones, who was one of the more impressive freshmen last season. "I'm still getting adjusted to the SEC game of football. Coming from high school, it's a big transition - the speed, the strength, the guys you have to go up against, the gaps you have to fill and the responsibility. I can see myself playing this year, but along with Jonathan Cornell teaching me the responsibilities and the schemes, I can see us getting about half and half playing time."
Jones has added 18 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame. He'll start spring drills next month at a chiseled 240 pounds.
"You can see a big change in my body," Jones said. "I went home and some people didn't know who I was. This strength and conditioning team is very great. They have us doing a lot of things - a lot of technique and a lot of strength also. They're getting us faster.
"Last week, I was at 245 and [strength and conditioning] coach [Don] Decker was like, 'Not a pound more. You've got to go down. Coach [Houston] Nutt wants me to stay between 235 and 240. It's amazing, though, to see how quickly you can get up on your weight. I learned so much since I've been here in the summertime. Along with strength and the weight gain, it's like more power and more force has been added to my tackling skills."
With Tony Fein and Ashlee Palmer gone to graduation, Jones and fellow freshman Lekenwic Haynes are going to be counted on to factor into the rotation. The duo earned the respect of their elders last season and by December, they were two of the Rebels' better linebackers.
"Jonathan Cornell is a very smart guy and right now, he's teaching and preaching me up on everything we have going on right now," Jones said. "For me this year, I'm just looking forward to getting my feet wet a little bit more this year.
"They always encouraged us. If we messed up on a drill or if we did good, it was, 'Good job,' or 'You've got to get better right here. Let's go in the film room. I'll teach you this. I'll teach you that. Let's do whatever we have to do to get better.' That's the motivation. That's what they've been telling us throughout our redshirt year. We feel like we can do it. It's just a matter of time."