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August 17, 2012EAST LANSING - Michigan State assistant coach Harlon Barnett discussed the emergence of Jairus Jones as the surprise frontrunner for the job of starting free safety in addition to other developments in Spartan defensive backfield after practice on Friday.
A quick overview of the things we learned from defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett on Friday:
How? Jones is a few pounds lighter than he used to be and is playing faster.
How else? All of them - Jones, Drummond and Williamson - are playing well. But Jones has been securing more interceptions. The coaches love that.
"The other guys have been knocking the ball down, he's been catching them," Barnett said of Jones. "I'm trying to find something that tips the scales; they're all playing well, and we're going to find out more here in the next two weeks."
But now that Jones has been making a push into the starting lienup, MSU might have to re-think and re-shuffle the nickel personnel group. Would it make sense for Jones to come off the field on third down? Not necessarily. That's why Jones has been repping in with the first-string nickel in the last day or so as well.
Jones served as a safety in the nickel defense for part of the Big Ten Championship season of 2010 when he was a redshirt freshman. He was in position to take over that role for good when he blew out his achilles tendon on the next-to-last practice of the 2011 spring practice season. The injury sidelined him for several months. He returned to the field for the second half of last season, but only recently regained his speed, and may have even added to his speed.
Waynes is the fastest guy on the team. Robinson is exceptional from a mental standpoint for a true freshman. Colquhoun is suddenly the fastest-rising DB in the program, having started to make plays much more frequently than in the past. The Canadian was burned twice in the Green-White Game, including once by Johnny Adams, lost confidence, but answered with a great summer.
Click below for a video interview with Barnett.