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As Kiffin’s former assistant, IU’s Jason Jones looks ahead to challenge of Rebels’ offense

As Kiffin’s former assistant, IU’s Jason Jones looks ahead to challenge of Rebels’ offense

Typically, when a team plays a bowl game its opponent is an unfamiliar one. That will not be the case for Indiana when it takes on Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl, January 2nd. Hoosiers’ safeties coach Jason Jones saw the Rebels’ schemes everyday last season. He was an assistant in 2019 for Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic.

“We did work together last year, and it is funny or weird when you think about it,” Jones said.

I learned a lot from him as far as just the football side. All those years he spent at Alabama with coach Nick Saban, a lot of the things that he learned there to structure a program in the way that practice is structured. Meetings he had implemented those things at FAU, I am sure he is implementing them there at Ole Miss.

Indiana safeties coach Jason Jones

While Indiana has coaches who have also coached at Ole Miss — Jones, head coach Tom Allen, co-offensive coordinator Grant Heard and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack were all on staff for the Rebels at one time — Jones is the only one who served under Kiffin in the past. And he has a lot of praise for his former boss.

“He is a sharp football coach,” Jones said.

He is detailed, but he is going to give you a formation. He is going to run an offensive play, and he is going to have plans A, B, C, and D. If the defense does this, we are going to do this. One of the things as a coach and getting prepared to play is that he is not going to leave any stone unturned and he is going to be detailed about the game plan and things like that. So, it forces you as a defensive coach to be even more detailed and pay attention so that on game day your guys will be in the best position possible to win the game.

Coach Jason Jones on Lane Kiffin

Jones’ Indiana secondary excels at takeaways

Jones’ secondary has been especially good this season in taking the ball away from the opposing offense. The Hoosiers have picked off 17 passes in just seven games, leading all Power 5 teams in the nation.

When Jones joined the Indiana staff this year, he already had the ball hawks with experience waiting for his tutelage. “I think the philosophy was already in place by coach Tom Allen and coach Kane Wommack,” Jones said.

Takeaways were one of the things that we put an emphasis on defensively. I think that the guys that I am coaching, last year they were young and this season being older and more mature, those guys have played in some big-time games and have a lot of snaps underneath their belts.

Coach Jason Jones on interceptions

Turnover margin is often the thing that determines which team wins a ball game. Jones has instilled the importance of turnovers to his players.

“I think it is just understanding the importance of takeaways, and we stress it,” Jones said.

“We stress it in practice when the ball is in the air. We stress going up and attacking it. If you drop a pass in practice, you have a chance to get an interception, and you drop it in practice there is a penalty and things like that. Sort of like a punishment or a reminder.

“Those interceptions are precious. They are hard to get. So, when we have an opportunity to get them, we have to take advantage of it. In just a scheme that we run, one of the things that coach Wommack has done a great job of is a scheme that we run that allows the guys to have vision. Guys can see the ball and we can match routes. It allows us to be aggressive and go attack it. So, just a combination of things.”

Indiana has not faced a fast-paced offense like the one Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby have at Ole Miss. That and the short turnaround from the regular season to the bowl game, has Jones trying to stress to his players how quickly they must prepare for the Rebels.

“There is definitely a sense of urgency,” Jones said. “Once we got out there and got to practicing and guys started moving around, they were getting back in a normal routine of practicing, position meetings, things like that, and focusing on their next opponent. The energy has been good. Guys were flying around, so you can definitely sense urgency.”

That sense of urgency for both teams must be adopted. The Outback Bowl kicks off in just five days. The game is set for 11:30 a.m. (CT) and will be televised on ABC.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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