BLOOMINGTON — Since first stepping foot on Indiana’s campus, fifth-year senior linebacker Reakwon Jones has tried to set an example for his teammates.
The 6-foot-2, 233-pound Jones was a six-time scout player of the week during his redshirt year in 2015. Since, Jones has worked his way up from a special teams contributor to starter, finishing with 36 tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery last season.
“It goes way faster than you think it’s going to go,” Jones said. “I’m energetic about it. I’m happy. I’m just ready to, you know, break through, and I hope that this being my last year, I’m part of that class that helps this program see something it hasn’t seen in a while.”
Jones is taking on another important role — leadership. He’s challenged himself to become more vocal and maintain a positive attitude through the doldrums of the middle of fall camp.
“They won’t follow me unless I show them that I’m happy to be here, I’m ready to work, I’m ready to help you get better,” Jones said.
IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack has noticed the change in Jones this camp.
“In the past, (leadership) was not required of him,” Wommack said. “He just had to go out and do his job. Now he’s doing it at a very high level where he feels confident about those things and now he sees that growth within himself, and he sees that growth within those younger players, so he’s trying to help them around.”
A natural disaster played into Jones breaking out of his shell. A former prep standout from Lynn Haven, Fla., Jones’ house was destroyed last October when Hurricane Michael ripped through the panhandle of the state. His parents made it through the Category 5 storm without injuries, but the rebuilding in the Panama City, Fla., region is ongoing more than 10 months later. Jones said his parents are still staying in a two-bedroom apartment, waiting for their house to be rebuilt.
“My mom said there has been work being started,” Jones said. “Kind of starting just to clear it out and work on it. But, I mean, we’re just thankful and that we had opportunity to be able to get back into the house that they had just got. They’re still staying in the apartment, but everything is looking good. Everything is going up.”
IU rallied around Jones in the weeks following the storm, raising money for hurricane victims. Jones said the outpouring of support had an impact on his own personality.
“I used to be a guy, I didn’t show a lot of emotion as far as things going on in my life I try to keep it tucked in and bottled away,” Jones said. “That just opened my eyes, and I don’t hold in feelings anymore more. If I need to talk about something I’ll talk about it.
“I’ve been a lot happier and more at peace with myself, anything going on in my life I feel more at peace, feel happier overall, which is going to help me give my all to the team, which this team deserves.”
Jones said he’s worked on all aspects of his game, his footwork, his drops in pass coverage, his pass-rushing skills. He wants to be part of a team that leads IU to its first bowl win since 1991, a goal IU coach Tom Allen set before the season began. To do that, Jones said the Hoosiers will need to be detail-oriented.
“Really just continuing to stress the little details, make sure people are doing everything right not just on the field but in the meeting rooms, in the cafeterias, in the classroom, off the field in general,” Jones said. “Just making sure everyone is so focused on the little details and just ready to take that next step.”
EXTRA POINTS: Wommack said the defense has communicated at a high level in camp, but got burned on some play-action pass drills at the end of practice Friday. He credited offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer. “They got some great concepts in,” Wommack said. “Kalen is fun to work with as a coordinator because he throws so many good (plays) at you that challenges your eyes, challenges your alignment.” Wommack, on sophomore Cam Jones and redshirt sophomore Thomas Allen, both battling for a starting linebacker spot: “Cam, his athleticism just shows out wherever he is on the field, and we’ve made no bones about it, he’s just a great football player. He’s a great athlete. So it’s our job to make sure we get him in the right matchups to maximize his skillsets. Thomas is the guy who can do everything right. He’s a great communicator on the field. He’s not as talented as Cam Jones, but he makes plays in a very different way.” … Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Tuttle made some nice throws Friday, including a deep ball to freshman receiver Davis Ellis. … Wommack, on his father, former Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, watching practice: “He kind of hangs back. He’s asked a bunch of questions so far, but the comments are coming, I know they’re coming. I want them.”