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March 29, 2013
CLEMSON -- Despite the fact that he's now been on Clemson's campus for a year, Kellen Jones remains somewhat of a mystery to folks ... at least those who haven't seen him in practice.
Within the Jervey practice facility, everyone knows who he is, considering the fits he gave the Tiger offense a year ago while serving time on the scout team.
Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney calls the former Oklahoma linebacker a player who goes about his business on the field like someone who's just had his last hundred-dollar bill stolen.
"I definitely want to be noticed," said Jones Friday night. "If you're playing defense, you have to have an edge. You have to have a little violence."
Swinney said earlier this week Jones is a player who does indeed go about his on-the-field business with a "violent edge" about him, pursuing skill players with a reckless abandon.
Jones said last year he'd already pulled work at SAM, MIKE and WILL since arriving in Clemson. He has taken his hard-hitting ways to the MLB and WLB positions this spring, though much of his work has been at WLB.
"They feel that's where my future is," he said. "It's different assignments and you're making all kinds of checks. But it's coming. I'm just trying to improve everyday."
Jones, who stands in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, said he played defensive end for six seasons until moving to backer prior to his junior year in high school. And he played with his hand down at times last fall on the scout team, serving as a rush end, he says, particularly when Clemson was preparing to battle Auburn, South Carolina and LSU.
Jones said his father always told him he'd end up at linebacker, the position his father played in college. But he admits his new role at WLB is a challenge.
"You've got to be more athletic in space. This is a big turn for me. I've just tried to be more open-minded about it. Sometimes you get frustrated, but you have to stay focused."
Jones did not red-shirt his freshman year at Oklahoma after transferring over from Michigan, where he originally signed out of high school. He said he felt he helped the team some last fall while working on the scout team, but acknowledges that he did take a step back in some respects.
"Last year it was almost like I went back into high school mode, working on the scout team. I think I lost my fundamentals some, so I know I've still got some room to improve there."
Jones concurs with both Venables and Swinney that collectively the Tigers' personnel in the front seven could be much improved this year.
"Lots of guys aren't thinking on the field so much now. They're familiar with the defense and they're using their athleticism to take advantage," he said.
The sophomore believes by the end of the offseason he too will be in a better position to take advantage of his outstanding athletic ability and explosiveness after having additional study time under his belt.
Asked what's realistic for him on the depth chart this fall, he said, "I'm second on the depth chart right now. I've just got to understand the defense.."
He's been battling Spencer Shuey, the Tigers' first-team MLB in the second half of the 2012 season and Tony Steward, who coaches expect back in workouts next week.
Jones calls Shuey a "very good linebacker with good instincts" and he said "I tip my hat to him" after spending the first half of spring competing with the senior.
Asked if he feels he can make a legitimate run for the starting job at WILL later in 2013, Jones answered, "Shuey understands the defense better than I do right now. Once I can understand it as good as he does, I feel I can challenge him for that spot. I think I can, yes."
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