Updated: May 25
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
In January 2021, Mike Jones Jr became a highly anticipated transfer when his arrival was broken by LSUOdyssey almost 3 weeks ahead of the media world; Because of his title-winning pedigree & father's NFL background, Mike was penciled in as an immediate starter by many analysts, sportswriters and talking heads. However, he was left waiting on the sidelines for nearly half of the season....why???
It was mystifying to many Tiger fans, then, once former Defensive Coordinator Daronte Jones regained control of his defense from Orgeron, Mike's early season benching became even more infuriating:
When the 2018 National Champion began receiving repeated reps, beginning with his 6 tackles in rotation vs Mississippi State, Jones Jr produced mightily for LSU's strong 2021 finish.
Mike supplied some ferocious brilliance for an injury-ravaged LSU defense vs Miss State (6 stops) or A&M, though he specifically exploded against Alabama. Jones Jr made his breakthrough by sacking Heisman winner Bryce Young, providing run stopping brutality (LSU held Alabama to an anonymous 6 rushing yards) & backfield fireworks, while delivering 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss & that aforementioned sack vs college football's then-#1 ranked team.
While playing mostly supporting reps in rotation at the backend of 2021, Mike Jones Jr still recorded a remarkable contribution of 34 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 PBU, before adding 8 pressures & 3 QB hits.
Now, on the cusp of his second year at LSU, Mike Jones Jr is finding himself in a situation where the stars are aligning:
Brian Kelly made the right move when he hired Chiefs' LB specialist Matt House as his new defensive coordinator, greatly impacting Jones Jr's development already after mere months working together.
Talking to Off the Bench, Mike revealed all the details about House's revolution within their linebackers room, encouraging the former Clemson transfer's vocal on-field leadership, showing him professional linebacking techniques, and helping him study the game in a whole new way.
Yes, Matt House's arrival has been huge for the highly lauded Tiger linebacker, but the ultimate credit for Mike Jones Jr's continued rise must lay at his own feet:
Throughout Spring practices, #19 patrolled the middle of the field, displaying strong pre-snap diagnosis and organization, as well as an unselfish streak which benefits the team overall....usually the first one in, usually the last one out....
While he's an All-American level talent, Jones Jr is content doing his job & helping his teammates.
He wants to win another championship, only this time he'll be leading a defense.
Currently feeling great about where his personal game is evolving, seeming far more comfortable as an LSU Tiger this year compared to last, Jones Jr is the warrior linebacker Matt House needed desperately, mixing the right amount of experience with superior skill & boundless drive.
Entering 2022 with an ambitious hunger, a year of experience culminating in his pivotal starting role vs Kansas State, and possessing a habit of making the biggest plays on the biggest stages (his sack on Young & plays vs Alabama, A&M, his red zone INT vs Justin Fields during 2020's CFP Semifinal) Jones Jr is a bonafide starter for LSU's 2022 defense & a definite breakout star to watch this fall.
Get your popcorn, ready.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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