Auburn, Ala.—Preseason camp can be a daunting thing to handle for an incoming freshman football player in the SEC. Throw in learning a new defensive scheme designed around NFL principles and it could be downright frustrating, but for Auburn freshman defensive back Jonathan Jones it has been a chance to show he's capable of playing right away for the Tigers.
A talented defensive back and track star from Carrollton (Ga.) High, Jones and fellow freshman defensive back Josh Holsey have both caught the eye of new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and secondary coach Willie Martinez in the first three weeks of practice with their speed and aggressiveness on the field. Jones said for him it has all been about getting comfortable in the defense.
"It went pretty well actually," Jones said of preseason camp. "I got in and got around Coach VanGorder and Coach Martinez and started learning the defense. I started seeing where I fit in and learning what to do and what not to do."
Learning the defense is something that has plagued not only the freshmen this preseason, but even the most seasoned of veterans. VanGorder is a coach that demands perfection from his guys in the meeting room and on the field, which Jones said can be very difficult when you have to know all 11 spots on the field.
"Definitely the defensive scheme itself, just learning the roles," Jones said is the toughest part of the defense for him. "You have to learn what linebackers do and what safeties do, not just your own individual position, it's more of a scheme. You have to learn where you fit in with the defense. There is definitely a lot more to it than a high school defense. You're learning the whole overall scheme."
At 5-10, 172, Jones isn't the most physical defensive back in terms of size, but he makes up for it with blazing speed and the ability to beat his man to the point of attack. That's something that could come in handy this season defensively for the Tigers, but it may show up more and quicker on special teams he said.
"I think special teams can really help as far as getting on the field early as a freshman," Jones said. "Coach (Jay) Boulware has been giving me a good shot at using my speed on special teams."
A player capable of making plays in the return game, Jones said right now he feels like his biggest contribution could come in covering both punts and kickoffs as a gunner. Now that he's had the chance to do some of that in scrimmage situations Jones said he's quickly learning there's more to it than just running down and making a tackle.
"It takes a smart player," Jones said. "There is more to special teams than people realize. There is a lot of technique to it and learning different situations, especially on kickoff. It's fast paced so you have to make quick decisions. It's definitely a lot more technique than people might think on special teams."
With a load of depth at the cornerback position there's always the chance that the coaching staff could decide to try to redshirt both Jones and Holsey if neither jump into the playing rotation early in the 2012 season. That's not something Jones is looking at however as he said he's hoping to make some noise and be on the field when the Tigers face Clemson on Sept. 1 in the Georgia Dome.
"Hopefully I have done enough," Jones said. "I gave it my best during the camp. Me and the coaches have talked. I'm definitely looking forward to trying to make a spot to get on the bus to Atlanta. Hopefully I've done enough."