Hoosiers maximizing Jones’ versatility this spring

At some point prior to Indiana’s season opener on Aug. 31, Tom Allen has a series of decisions to make.

One involves settling on a quarterback, maybe the most important offseason objective of all. Several more decisions will involve the position battles that dot the depth chart on both sides of the ball.

Another involves Cam Jones.

Which position will the talented underclassman defender play this fall? That’s the question.

There’s still time before Allen and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack have to make a ruling. Right now, the Hoosiers are using spring practice to get Jones comfortable at a few spots to maximize his versatility and athleticism.

“He’s in his linebacker phase of spring ball,” Allen said Saturday. “He’s just playing with more confidence. He’s got great strike, (he’s a) great physical specimen that can really run and finish plays on the field. Love his versatility that he gives our defense.”

As a freshman last fall, Jones played the hybrid-safety “Husky” position in each of the 11 games he played. He surfaced as a building block for the future, sharing the team lead with two forced fumbles, while totaling 20 tackles, including 15 solo stops in rotational work inside the defensive backfield.

This offseason, Allen has aimed to diversify Jones’ positional profile.

Indiana has strived to get Jones consecutive reps at both free safety and outside linebacker, an approach that the Memphis, Tenn. native has warmed to as the spring has unfolded.

“At first, I was kind of like, man, moving to (outside linebacker), I’ve got to learn all this other stuff,” Jones said. “Moving to free safety, I got to learn all of this other stuff. But having the right mindset — if you got the right mindset and attack every day, the coaches, they’re going to have you back. Coach Kane, he met with me for two hours just going over plays and stuff. Just having that, you feel comfortable and confident.

“… Being able to learn each position, it helps me know where everybody else is on the defense. When I know that, man, I can help other players, I can help the other free safeties, the other Huskies. Just being able to be all over the place, it helps me with the defense.”

Although there’s a learning curve to digesting different roles in a college defense, it’s not necessarily new to Jones, who says he played “everywhere” while establishing himself as a Big Ten-level prospect at Saint Benedict at Auburndale High School. There, Jones recorded 160 tackles, 60 tackles for loss, 34 sacks and five interceptions across his final two seasons.

At IU, Jones credits his teammates for helping him settle in and feel comfortable moving from spot to spot.

“Khalil Bryant, Fitz (Bryant Fitzgerald), Kwon (Reakwon Jones), they’ve all been right there having my back,” Jones said. “Even James Miller, when we’re out there right next to each other, he makes the calls and stuff like that. That just helps me, and they’ve all been real good to me.”

No matter which position Allen settles on for Jones, one thing is already clear. Indiana wants — and needs — Jones on the field.

“(We’re) just doing some things to maximize our roster,” Allen said.

Jones is on board with the process.

“I just want to be on the field, really,” Jones said. “Just want to be on the field.”

2 comments

  1. Getting Jones ready to play several defensive positions will allow them to keep him on the field against different offensive sets. It really helps not needing to plug in a new player when facing a multiple offense. Jones was one of a number of freshman that showed last year they could develop into very good defensive players down the road.

    1. Gotta love those youngsters IU has on the defensive side of the roster. Very excited to see what kind of steps they’ve made come gameday.

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