Thursday, September 18, 2003

Jones isn't leading just MU defense

Healthy linebacker voted to take on co-captain role

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Senior Terrell Jones is in his fourth season as a starting linebacker for the Miami RedHawks, but in many ways, he feels like a freshman.

Jones not only has had to deal with learning the nuances of new defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's system, but he has had to do it without Matt Robillard, who spent 2 1/2 years starting next to Jones in the Miami defense.

"I miss him," said the 5-foot-9, 218-pound Jones, who plays the middle linebacker position known as "Mike" in the Miami playbook. "It's like when you can't get ink for your favorite pen. You can't write your story. He was my partner in crime. It's different."

Still, after finishing third on the team in tackles despite missing one game and being hobbled in another last season, the 21-year-old Jones is second on the team with 16 tackles this season, three behind free safety Steve Burke.

"He's our quarterback on defense," said linebackers coach Taver Johnson, whose first season at Miami coincided with Jones'. "He makes all of our calls and checks, and he's responsible for the front-seven alignment. He's a guy who has to play the run and play the pass and be able to blitz. He has to multi-task."

Jones has been relying on his instincts since injuries to other players forced Miami's coaches to abandon their plans to redshirt him and instead move him into the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2000. Despite the late start, Jones finished second in the voting for Mid-American Conference freshman of the year and made the third team of The Sporting News' freshman All-America squad. He led the nation's freshmen in average tackles per game and was second overall in the MAC.

Jones joined Robillard as a first-team All-MAC pick in 2001, when he led Miami with 124 tackles. He probably would've repeated last season if he hadn't been injured.

"He's been injured three of the four years that we've been here," Johnson said. "Last spring was the first time he was able to participate in spring practice, and he's been able to participate in winter and summer conditioning."

Said Jones: "The thing is, I've just been so banged up. I'm a little person, taking punishment."

Jones' experience at excelling without practice is being tested again this season. A recent change in his class schedule forces him to miss Miami's Tuesday practices, but the RedHawks know that if any player can handle it, it's Jones.

"I tell everybody that I'm a student first," he said. "I do extra film work. The game's pretty much the same. Where it hurts me to miss practice is the players miss me and my leadership. I miss being there as far as that aspect."

The team voted during preseason camp to reinstate two permanent co-captain positions for the season. Miami had changed captains from game to game since the early 1990s. The players named Jones and senior offensive left guard Frank Smith as the captains.

"I don't think I'm relishing it like I should be," Jones said. "I told (cornerback) Alphonso Hodge the other day that it's a great honor to be singled out. I've always been singled out, but not in this way. My teammates voted on me to single out. That's a great honor. I don't think I'm relishing it now, but I'm sure I will when I look back in five or 10 years."

Up next

What: Miami (1-1) vs. Colorado State (2-1).

When: 3 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Fort Collins, Colo.

Radio: WMOH-AM (1450).

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