Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.
Next up: No. 6 Christian Jones
What he's done: Jones' talent has been obvious from the outset, but it wasn't until his move to the weakside linebacker spot last season that his numbers finally began to match his potential. In his new role, he set a career high in tackles with a team-leading 95 (good for seventh in the ACC), including seven for a loss, while defending three passes and recovering two fumbles. He was solid in defending the run, where FSU ranked third in the nation, and the pass, as the Seminoles D led the country, showing a versatility at the position that could be exploited even more in 2013.
Where he's at: Jones flirted with the NFL after the season, with the advisory committee pegging him in the middle rounds. Instead, he returned to Florida State, where he and Telvin Smith will be the sole veterans in a deep-but-inexperienced group of linebackers. But while Jones is now the elder statesman, he also figures to be seeing a few new looks, too. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt allowed Jones to work as an edge rusher with his hand in the dirt throughout the spring, and the senior figures to play an even bigger role on defense this year as Pruitt's system clicks into place.
What's to come: The common school of thought last season was that Jones' move to the weak side would be a boon to his numbers, and that largely turned out to be accurate. But FSU's defense was still predicated on a front four that was among the best in the country, while the linebackers played second fiddle. That won't be the case in 2013, as all four defensive line starters have moved on, and Pruitt has shifted gears and opened up the field for athletes like Jones to test their mettle. It should be an interesting challenge for a player who could easily work his way into the first round of the 2014 NFL draft with a strong season, and 100 tackles is likely the starting point for Jones' expectations. Perhaps as important as the numbers is Jones' leadership role, setting the tone for this year's defense and mentoring the next group of young linebackers who will need to step in next season.