By LARRY VAUGHT
One of the best, and maybe surprising, parts of Kentucky’s football season so far has been the play of senior linebacker Jordan Jones.
No, he’s not going to lead the Southeastern Conference in tackles like he did two years ago. However, he’s playing his best because he’s under control and not losing his composure.
With all the trash talking during the Mississippi State game, Jones never once lost his cool. That’s a welcome change based on what he did in the final regular season game last season against Louisville when he did come unglued.
“Jordan has definitely matured. Jordan is one of those kids that he means well 95 percent of the time. He really does. He’s just a joy to be around most of the time, but he’s had a few episodes where he can get a little off,” Stoops said.
Give Stoops credit here, too. The coach and his staff could have bailed on Jones. Instead, they worked to help him and it’s paying off.
“It’s our job to get him back on the rails. This year, he’s done a good job himself of being intentional about staying ahead of it and doing the right things. I’ve been very proud of him.,” Stoops said.
“This past week was probably, arguably, one of the best games he’s played. Not because of tackles or production, because of the discipline that he played with, within the defense, and he still showed up to make critical plays when we needed it.
“I’ve been proud of him and his progress. We’re a quarter of the way through. He’s got a long way to go, but I’m pleased.”
Stoops says helping players like Jones mature and thrive is what coaches should do.
“It’s too easy now for kids to chuck it in. It’s too easy for us to dismiss them and move on because, one thing’s for sure, we have a lot of depth. So, it’s next man up around here. That’s a good thing,” Stoops said. “As a coach you always like to see it that way, but you still always treat guys the way you would expect your kid to be treated.
“That’s hard to do when we have a lot of good players, keeping everybody happy, playing time, and all those things. So, you’re always going to have that type of deal, but our team is fantastic. They understand that the team comes first. They’ve had a great attitude about that. That doesn’t mean there’s not individual guys that wish they could get more opportunity but you’ve got to do what’s right and what’s best for the football team.”