Divine intervention brought Jacquez Jones back to Lexington.
“God just placed me here. I feel fortunate to be here,” Jones told KSR at UK football media day. “I feel like it was just destined to be.”
Call it fate, destiny or just an unexpected set of circumstances, Jones is fitting in well at his new Kentucky home.
He has a little experience playing football in Lexington. In the second game of the truncated 2020 college football season, Jones tackled seven Wildcats while wearing an Ole Miss uniform. When asked what he remembered from the game, the former Rebel got a little tripped up.
“Last time I was here, y’all missed a — well, we missed a field goal,” Jones laughed. “We won with Elijah Moore in the corner. Now roles are reversed and now I’m with the good team.”
Jones had a successful 2020 season, leading the Rebels with 75 tackles. Despite the personal success, Ole Miss struggled to stop opponents, ranking at the bottom of the SEC in almost every major statistical category. Looking to take his game to the next level, Kentucky provided the perfect fit for three reasons.
1. A UK linebacker was just selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
2. Another SEC transfer to Kentucky, Kelvin Joseph, was selected in the second round.
3. He previously spent one season playing for LB coach Jon Sumrall at Ole Miss.
“Take the next step, that’s why I came here,” he said. “Ever since January I lost around 20 pounds to get my body right to be able to play sideline to sideline throughout the game. I feel like I can take that next step.”
Jones needed to take the next step and Kentucky needed Jones. Davis’ early departure was unexpected. Depth at linebacker took another hit in the spring when D’Eryk Jackson suffered a season-ending injury. As soon as Jones entered the transfer portal, Sumrall jumped into action. Within a week Jones was in Lexington learning the Kentucky defense.
“He’s a high-football IQ guy,” said Sumrall. “He’s got a lot of skins on the wall. He’s been through a lot of battles, played in 30-something college football games. Mentally, maybe there are some terminology things that are different for him, but he’s done a lot of things that we do. It’s just converting his mind to how we teach it and how we call things.”
It’s difficult to accurately quantify the significance of Jones’ experience. This might be able to paint a picture of how his feel of the game can benefit Kentucky’s defense.
“On Tuesday he’s calling stuff out the offense is getting ready to do,” Sumrall shared. “He’s got a little bit of what Square’s got from a football IQ standpoint.”
Kentucky had talented linebackers on the roster, there just weren’t enough of them with significant experience. Thanks to an unexpected turn of events, the Wildcats found the perfect solution to a complicated problem.
“He’s another older guy like myself and he’s a hard worker,” said DeAndre Square. “He’s smart. He’s always here, putting in work. We’ve got a good group and he just fits in like the last missing puzzle piece.”