Reakwon Jones exceeding Allen’s expectations at linebacker

From Tom Allen’s view, one Hoosier defender has separated himself from the others this spring.

It’s Reakwon Jones, a redshirt junior who’s aiming to fill the void at Stinger linebacker left by Tegray Scales’ graduation.

Using Jones’ spring success as a harbinger, Allen believes he is surfacing as the linebacker Indiana needs.

“Reakwon Jones has exceeded my expectations,” Allen said. “I’m really proud of him. I think that he has made the most growth of anybody on our defense from last season to right now.”

How so? There are a few ways.

Through IU’s first 13 practices of the spring, Jones has been decisive in his decision making while running with IU’s first team defense. With that, Scales’ former backup is setting a standard this month for other IU linebackers to follow.

Jones sees the great opportunity in front of him — a chance to earn the bulk of the reps at Stinger and extend the culture of great linebacking play set by Scales and those before him — and he’s eager to seize it.

“Since the start of spring, I came in with the mindset that it’s my time,” Jones said. “It’s my time to really prove and show what I got. … I just came to practice every day with the mindset that I’m going to run to the ball. I’m gonna make as many plays as I can and I’m just gotta try to lead by example. I’m not a very verbal, yelling type of guy. I’m just trying to lead by example and get the other guys to trust me. That’s really what I’ve pushed for this whole spring.”

Allen and the Hoosiers entered spring practice hopeful that Jones could prove capable of meeting expectations.
He appeared in 10 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, posting seven tackles. A career-high three of those stops came in the win over Charleston Southern.

Prior to last fall, the bulk of Jones’ experience came on special teams. He also previously earned recognition for his work on IU’s scout team during his redshirt year in 2015.

“Coming from last fall, we had Tegray playing a lot of snaps,” Jones said. “I knew they wanted me to step up eventually. I knew I was going to be challenged this spring to step up, or I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in.”

Jones gives Scales ample credit for helping him reach this point. As the understudy to an All-American, Jones watched how Scales prepared and reacted, gradually drawing ideas that he could apply to his own approach.

“Tegray, I played behind him since I got here,” Jones said. “His effort has really shown in anything that he does. All the effort he can put in, he puts in there. He’s taught me stuff about playbooks and recognizing stuff, playing off instincts and stuff like that.

“I’m just using some of his game, the way he gets off blocks, the way he handles himself in run fits. I’ve used some of those ways to help elevate my game so that there won’t be no drop off in this linebacker room”

Allen has demanded focus and results from his defense this spring. After losing eight senior starters from last fall, the Hoosiers are bracing for the retooling and reinstallation that’s to come on that side of the ball this year.

With Jones already emerging, Allen says he’s confident about the direction the defense is moving.

“You gotta have those next guys in line,” Allen said. “They gotta elevate. He’s one of them that’s done that.”