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UK Football Player Preview: Jordan Jones will look for an even-keel senior season

Jones is a force to be reckoned with when he’s playing disciplined football

Jeremy Chisenhall

Jordan Jones is often Kentucky’s most electrifying defensive player.

He’s also one of Kentucky’s most undisciplined players.

The rising senior linebacker finished fifth on the team in total tackles last year with 64. He was also third on the team in tackles for loss with 7.5, fifth on the team in sacks with two, and tied for second in quarterback hurries with three.

In addition to all that, he recorded one pass defense and one forced fumble. And he did all of that despite the fact that he missed four games with a shoulder injury.

Jordan Jones

Position: linebacker

Measurements: 6-2, 218 pounds

Hometown: Youngstown, Ohio

School: Cardinal Mooney

Recruit ranking: Four-star prospect (Scout), top-20 player in the state of Ohio (247 Sports)

And while he was one of the top players on the stat sheet, the numbers don’t tell you the whole story. Jones makes a lot of great plays that you only see on tape.

Take this one for example, where Jones is blitzing Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm. His rushed pressure is far too much for the Bulldogs’ offensive line to handle, and Fromm is forced to scramble up into the pocket, which leads him right into T.J. Carter, who records the sack.

And this next one will show up in his tackle for loss numbers, but it still doesn’t account for the fact that he had great vision in defending the read option, leaving Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu with nowhere to go.

Speaking of that Ole Miss game, here’s a play where Jones recognizes the fact that the offensive line has parted like the Red Sea, and he hits the gap as if he was shot out of a cannon, obliterating Ta’amu in the process.

This play is also a great example of the fire that Jones brings. There was no one in the stadium more excited than him in that moment.

Lastly, this play from 2016 is another example. Jones anticipates that Nick Fitzgerald will scramble on the run-pass option, and is on him in an instant. Fitzgerald rears back to throw, but he’s got no time and no throwing lane with Jones bearing down on him. He’s got two choices: stand in and make the pass and die right there on Kroger Field, or duck for cover and throw the ball away. He made the right choice.

These are all great plays that show Jones is better than his box score tells. But the box score also doesn’t show the terrible decisions he’s known to make.

Like the flag he was called for in a crucial moment against Northwestern in the Music City Bowl last year.

Or the massive brawl he caused with Lamar Jackson in the 2017 Governor’s Cup.

And the personal foul he picked up after that for taking Jackson to the ground well after the play was over.

Jones is an incredibly skilled linebacker. His play recognition is top notch, as is his awareness, and his fire and drive make him one of the hardest-hitting players in the SEC.

But his mistakes will absolutely dumbfound you.

Jones’ return for Kentucky is huge. He’s one of the top returning defenders, alongside Mike Edwards, Josh Allen and Denzil Ware. This group can wreak utter havoc on a lot of offenses, and that’ll be the expectation this year, with Jones right in the middle of it.

Jones will have a more disciplined senior season. He has to. His tantrums on the field have raised huge red flags. And without them, NFL scouts would see a player with incredible football smarts that can punch well above his weight, but with them, they have to be left wondering if a player that undisciplined is worth the risk.

Look for Jones to keep his hits between the whistles this year. He’s one year away from leaving a permanent mark on this Kentucky football program, but he has to decide whether or not that mark is good. A productive and clean senior season would go a long way in making NFL teams decide that it’s worth taking the good with the bad.