When Ole Miss linebacker Jacquez Jones entered the transfer portal, this seemed like a player that Kentucky would be drawn to.
The former mid three-star recruit in the class of 2018 out of Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Hillcrest played his freshman season at Ole Miss for current Kentucky assistant Jon Sumrall. In his three-year career in Oxford, Jones recorded 182 tackles playing in the SEC West. The 6-foot, 235-pound off-ball linebacker is a veteran looking for a new home.
Lexington may be just the place for Jones to thrive. KSR has learned the linebacker should be in Lexington this week for a visit.
There are many reasons why the fit with Kentucky makes sense with Jones and vice versa. These are two parties that are looking for the same thing. This is a recruitment that could happen very fast for a variety of reasons as Kentucky battles South Carolina, Liberty, UCLA, and West Virginia.
Sources: Kentucky has emerged as the current frontrunner for Ole Miss linebacker transfer Jacquez Jones.
South Carolina, Liberty, UCLA and West Virginia are among the other schools that have been in contact. Plan seems to be to make a decision as soon as this coming week.
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) June 6, 2021
Enhances strength of the defense
When breaking down the Kentucky defense in 2021, a clear strong point emerges. The Wildcats have some questions on the perimeter at cornerback while the pass rush is a huge concern. However, the middle of the defense should be rock solid.
Senior nose tackle Marquan McCall, senior Will linebacker DeAndre Square, and redshirt senior Yusuf Corker give the Wildcats a sturdy backbone. These three will set the tone for the unit as the coaching staff looks to develop some younger parts of the defensive roster. A veteran addition at Mike linebacker only strengthens one of the better parts of the football team.
The loss of D’Eryk Jackson means a glaring hole at Mike, but Jones could step right in and help fill that role. To go along with redshirt senior Tyrell Ajian, this would give Kentucky five reliable players along the backbone of the defense that have all played a lot of football in the SEC.
As a true freshman in 2018, Jones earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman squad as he played in every game with one start while tallying 36 tackles. PFF named him as one of the best rookies in college football. In 2019, the inside linebacker became a full-time starter as he finished second on the squad with 71 tackles to go along with 7.5 tackles for loss. In nine games in 2020, Jones was a starter who posted 75 tackles.
This is a transfer who has played in 33 career games with plenty of starts. Jones has played a lot of football and has seen a ton of offensive schemes. He has continued to post numbers despite having a different defensive coordinator — Wesley McGriff, Mike MacIntyre, D.J. Durkin — each season at Ole Miss.
This is a transfer that could bring a very high floor to Lexington. The Wildcats would know exactly what they are getting.
In Kentucky’s three-down front scheme with a hybrid edge player lined up to the weak side, the Wildcats have chosen to have a run thumper at Mike linebacker more times than not. Both Courtney Love and Kash Daniel fit this mold while Jamin Davis and Chris Oats were each more athletic and could play the Will spot. Jones fits the thumper role and proved this at Ole Miss.
In the Outback Bowl victory over Indiana, Jones (No. 32) finished with 13 tackles constantly flashing as a run-stopping force from his Mike position. The physical off-ball linebacker does a great job thumping offensive lineman to disengage from blocks and then creating tackles. On stunts, the veteran gets downhill in a hurry and packs a punch when arriving. The linebacker can be a real weapon in short-yardage defense.
This is a player that is at his best when able to play downhill and fit an inside zone or gap scheme rush attack. Jones may be a two-down linebacker but can be a valuable player in run support. That is something Kentucky currently does not have with the loss of Jackson.