Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

July 18, 2012

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After a stellar junior season, Vernon Jones returns for his senior year as Northeastern State’s top cornerback.

Vernon Jones faced a harsh reality during his high school years. Thanks to his small frame (5 feet, 11 inches and 165 pounds), Jones had to come to grips with the fact that he’d never play quarterback.

“Most of the time, I wanted to play quarterback,” he said. “But I found out I’m not tall enough to play quarterback, so I had to find another place.”

The position switch he made seems to be working out just fine for him — and for Northeastern State, too.

At cornerback, Jones hauled in four interceptions, broke up eight passes and recorded 17 tackles during his junior campaign at NSU. And RiverHawk head coach Kenny Evans foresees an even bigger senior year for Jones.

“I think he will be one of the top defensive backs in the MIAA,” Evans said. “He’s a great coverage corner, he has great cover speed and he has very good ball skills.”

In 2012, those skills will be on full display as NSU’s primary shut-down cornerback. Last season, Jones had plenty of help in that category from All-American Nate Robinson.

But now it’s up to Jones to ease the pain of Robinson graduating.

“We’re hoping he can be the guy to do that,” Evans said. “We’re hoping he can be the coverage guy to lock down someone if we ask him to. The thing he has over Nate is he’s a little taller.”

When asked if he felt any added pressure for taking over in Robinson’s role, Jones said, “I wouldn’t say there’s any added responsibility for me. I just have to take on a leader role and try and help the guys in other spots going.”

Joining Jones in the defensive backfield in 2012 will likely be cornerback, Chandler Barr, and Oklahoma State transfer, Victor Johnson, at safety. Kyler Harris, Travon Brooks and Colten Nevel are also likely to play key roles, as well.

“We may have lost one of the best cornerbacks in the country,” Evans said of losing Robinson, “but we have a chance to have one of the best secondaries we’ve ever had here.”

Jones concurs.

“I think the secondary is going to be good this year,” said Jones, who converted an interception into a touchdown against Southwestern Oklahoma State last season. “Last year, we didn’t have much speed at safety. But this year we should have speed, so we’re going to make up for a lot of things.”

As for how Jones — a Jacksonville, Fla., native — ended up at NSU, credit defensive lineman, Faafetai Te’o, with that assist.

“We were recruiting Te’o at the time,” said Evans, who signed Jones out of New Mexico Military Institute. “Once we got both of them on campus, the recruiting was pretty easy.”

Evans added that Jones’ time spent at New Mexico Military Institute also helped shape his outstanding character.

“The one thing he brought from New Mexico Military was the discipline,” Evans said of Jones. “He had to go through the military training, so he’s a very disciplined young man. That lends itself to helping him develop into the player he is right now.”

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