LSU’s linebacker depth chart just improved tremendously. Mike Jones, Jr. brings experience and a veteran presence to the linebacker core.
One of the most unique additions to the 2021 LSU roster comes by way of transfer. Clemson linebacker Mike Jones, Jr. will be a welcome addition to the Tigers roster, and not just for the reasons many might believe.
Jones, Jr. is an emotional player. He leads by example. Even as an IMG Academy prospect during his prep career, Jones, Jr. was one of those players that really played with a lot of emotion. After this past season’s defensive collapse, LSU could use some of that emotion.
Jones, Jr. also brings physical traits that fit today’s style of college football. A hybrid linebacker that can play the “rover” position in a 4-2-5 defense, meaning a combination of safety and linebacker, Jones, Jr. will help LSU’s defense in coverage.
LSU was torched far too often in space this past season, and Jones, Jr. will be presented with an opportunity to be a nickel linebacker, a dime linebacker and simply play during passing downs because of his natural athleticism. Jones recorded two interceptions for Clemson last season.
Here are two other areas that Jones should be instrumental in helping the 2021 LSU defense: versatility and leadership. Both of these areas are really important to an otherwise thin and somewhat inexperienced Tigers linebacker room.
With experience in a complex Clemson defense, Jones, Jr. will be able to move around in the LSU defense. Perhaps he will be placed at the weak side linebacker position when LSU is in a true 4-3 alignment. Even with a base defense, there are chess moves LSU can use with Jones, Jr.
Considering his burst and athleticism, Jones, Jr. will be a valuable blitzer, and perhaps as an edge defender from time to time. Keeping offensive coordinators and quarterbacks off balance by way of moving linebackers pre-snap is a great way to take advantage of Jones, Jr.’s skillset. It’s also possible that he plays some on the strong side as well.
This will be Jones, Jr.’s fourth season of college football. He’s 225-pounds. He can take on a tight end or offensive tackle and defeat the block on a stretch play and make a tackle in the backfield. He’s talented enough, strong enough, and smart enough to make that play happen. Again, moving him around is a distinct possibility. That also aids the specialty packages based on down and distance.
The nickel and dime packages will probably be the most interesting for what LSU does with Jones, Jr. Blitzing, playing man or zone coverage, and lining up over the slot wide receiver are all possible scenarios. That’s invaluable to the LSU defensive staff. Finally, making a mark before the 2021 season even begins.
Leadership is key. Jones was a part of the 2018 Clemson championship team, and he was a member of Clemson’s runner up team that lost to LSU in the 2019 title game. He was a starter for the 2020 Clemson team that made the playoffs. Jones, Jr. has seen big moments and knows the path to make it to the playoffs.
LSU needs more leadership on defense. How the team works during the offseason will likely be the single most critical aspect of the 2021 team. There will be new defensive coaches, so that means a new scheme. Of course that also means figuring out that new scheme while putting in the time with strength and conditioning.
The Tigers will bring in a very multi-talented linebacker with Jones, Jr. His impact will be felt in Baton Rouge on and off the field of play. LSU really found a key cog for its 2021 defense.