By Will Vandervort
When he comes off the practice fields, Kellen Jones has one question for defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
“How did I do today?”
Jones plans to do that every day from here on out because he wants his position coach’s feedback and he wants to make sure he is getting better at the two things Venables wants to see him improve on – his fundamentals and his pass coverage.
“I’m trying to make an ultimate impact that will force him to put me on the field more often,” Jones said.
Though he is making some strides in trying to accomplish that, Jones currently sits as the third string weakside linebacker behind Spencer Shuey and Tony Steward and is in the same position at middle linebacker behind Stephone Anthony and B.J. Goodson.
“I didn’t come here to play third string,” Jones said. “That’s not one of the things I want to do at all. It is something that’s unusual for me, but I’m trying to stay calm and keep my composure and achieve the goal. I just have to stay positive. Stay respectful to Coach V, improve my fundamentals and improve in my pass coverages.”
One of the ways Jones, a transfer from Oklahoma, is doing that is by staying glued to Shuey. Jones understands Shuey is a student of the game and understands Venables defensive schemes and alignments almost as good as Venables himself.
“When Shuey says he is going to watch film, I say, ‘I want to go watch it with you,’” Jones said. “He understands it. I think because he had a year in which he started seven games, and was watching film all the time, that has helped him understand things better.
“Last year, I sat out and played on the scout team. I did not watch film or anything like that. But if I did watch some film, I did not know what was going on because Coach V switches things up on the fly as far as it goes during the season… I know the plays well, but not like Shuey does. He knows those plays in and out.”
Jones, who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 215 pounds, understands how he practices and how much he improves in the areas he needs to improve in will determine how much playing time he gets in the fall. Though he knows he can be an impact player at linebacker, he understands he has to do it the right way. And that way is the way Venables wants him to do it.
“Coach V says I will decide my playing by how I practice on the field,” the redshirt sophomore said. “That is something I have to adapt to. I have to focus on the field. ‘Okay, remember this and remember to keep my pads low, leverage and everything like that.’ It is something I have to focus more on. That’s really what I have to do.
“I’m asking him each and every day, ‘How did I do today? How is my pass coverage?’ When I understand stuff that is when I’m good. When I don’t understand, that’s where I mess up and I think too much. When I don’t read a play as fast, I can’t use my instincts. When I do understand the playbook, that’s when I can be more athletic with the playbook and freelance a little bit more in a positive way.”