It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
As has been covered over and over again, Florida State replaces quite a few players on defense this year. Christian Jones, however, is not one of those replacements. As the only remaining member of the Seminoles’ starting front seven, Jones brings the group a sense of veteran leadership they’d otherwise be lacking. He also has more talent than just about any defender in the ACC (a discussion for another day, I’m sure). But given the perceived (but not actual) youth around him, will that be enough?
Of course it will be. Surrounded by future NFL talent last year, Jones still managed to turn in a pretty dominating performance against both the run and pass. A total of 95 tackles, seven TFLs, two fumble returns and a touchdown, too. Considering the players up front for the ‘Noles last year, it’s amazing he was able to get behind the line as much as he did. He was so successful that he was about to head off to the pros himself, likely making for the 12th FSU player drafted this past April. But Jimbo Fisher was able to convince him out of it, selling the senior linebacker on the impact he’d be able to have this season. With new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt also in the fold, there’s a thought Jones’s aggression will be put to even better use this season — a very scary thought for Florida State’s opponents this season.
They’re getting plenty of warning on what to expect, however. Jones has spent the offseason working on his presence in the pass rush, even meeting with the team’s defensive line coach to improve his technique getting after the quarterback. He recently expanded on his role in a quick chat with FSU’s athletic department:
“I’m really excited about Coach Pruitt’s system. This defense allows me to show my versatility. It will give me a chance to not just show people that I can play multiple spots at linebacker but that I can come off the edge effectively and rush the passer. It gives me more chances to make plays and that’s exactly what I want to do for my team.”
‘Noles fan or not, it’ll be an exciting time to watch Jones play this fall. And if he lives up to the lofty expectations being set out, he just might turn in one of the country’s best linebacker performances of 2013.