Worth Taking a Second Look: Greg Jones Turning Heads at Michigan State

Blake MillerContributor ISeptember 11, 2009

As true Spartan fans, we all know Greg Jones is good.  Real good.  Team leader in tackles as a freshman and sophomore kind of good.  First-team Freshman All-American good.  First-team All Big Ten as a sophomore kind of good. 

In fact, there's a fair chance if you steal something on campus, Greg Jones will hunt you down.  But take a second look at the Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of Year, and you may see more than just good.

You need not start any further than fellow nasty men who have donned the green and white.  Dig back to the Nick Saban Era featuring the Plaxico Burress emergence, and you'll find hidden the consistency of Ike Reese.  Reese posted 410 career stops, making him the third all-time leading Spartan Tackler.  Greg Jones stands at 205.  Barring no injuries, one extra measly tackle at this pace will put him in sole possession of third place. 

What about a little more recent?  Josh Thornhill's name draws fair comparison, but his first two seasons produced 2.5 less sacks, 12 less tackles for losses (TFL), and 52 less tackles. 

Expanding the analysis to former Big Ten mammoths helps open eyes regarding the man wearing No. 53 in the middle also. 

Former Nittany Lion great Paul Posluszny earned Freshman All-Big Ten with 36 tackles.  Greg Jones earned Freshman All-American with 78.

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Future All-American James Laurinaitis sophomore year's tackles, sacks, and TFL respectively: 115, 4, 8.5. 

Greg Jones: 127, 4.5, 14.

But the comparison really starts to get scary with A.J. Hawk.  Both where key components as freshmen.  Hawk's line as a sophomore ran a similar 106 tackles, 4 sacks, and 13 TFL.  Both were named preseason Big Ten Defensive POY going into their junior year. 

The tackle comparisons speak for themselves about Jones' ability.  205 through two years is a ridiculous number.  Patrick Willis had 90.  The aforementioned Hawk had 132.  2009 NFL Defensive Player of Year James Harrison had compiled 173 through his sophomore campaign. 

So while Jones has proved he's a wrapping up machine, what're the next steps in greatness for the tank from Cincinnati?

History has shown high profile linebackers break out by making big plays in big situations. 

Laurinaitis picked off five passes as a sophomore, including one returned for a TD against No. 2 Texas.  That same game he forced two fumbles, including one on a goal line stop.

A.J. Hawk forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, and had a third down interception all in one game.  Against Vince Young.

Jones has no interceptions and one forced fumble to his name.  But give him time.  If a guy can go from 78 tackles to 127 in one year while bouncing between middle and outside linebacker, he can develop some ballhawking skills too. 

Posluszny, Hawk, Laurinaitis, and Willis were all named 1st Team All-American as juniors.  Their four average junior stats listed as such: 126.5 tkls, 10 TFL, 3.25 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1.25 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.

These are all numbers Greg Jones has either already reached in a season or can easily obtain.  Should he mix in a few big game-changing turnovers against the likes of Michigan or Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, Spartan fans will be no longer be looking at just good. 

They'll be looking at Dick Butkus Award Winner kind of good.