EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -At 228 pounds, Michigan State middle linebacker Greg Jones is eight pounds heavier than when he debuted as a freshman in 2007.
But Jones is still about six pounds lighter than the average starting middle linebacker in the Big Ten. He even gives up a few pounds to quarterbacks such as Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State and Daryll Clark of Penn State.
The speedy Jones more than makes up for the weight differential with a supersized motor. He's also got good technique, instincts and work ethic - a combination that helped make him the Big Ten's preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
``It's more mental for me,'' Jones, a 6-foot-1 junior, says of his approach to improving his play. ``Physically, like some people say, I may be undersized and whatnot. But that doesn't really matter to me.''
27 tackles last season. He has led Michigan State in tackles as both a freshmen and a sophomore, and he's a leader on a team aiming to improve on last season's 9-4 record. The Spartans open the season Saturday by hosting Montana State.
Jones starred at Cincinnati's Archbishop Moeller High School, which counts several notable athletes including Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin as alums. But the most influential Moeller graduate for Jones was his high school coach, former Notre Dame and New York Jets linebacker Bob Crable.
Crable, an All-American for Notre Dame, also was an undersized linebacker relying on wits and technique to tame larger opponents. There are some similarities in their style of play.
``He's intense,'' Crable said of Jones. ``He's relentless. He plays against those 300-pound linemen, and he can either avoid them or he's able to get good leverage against them. Because of the leverage he plays with, that adds another 25 pounds to him. It's simple physics.''
Perhaps just as crucial is Jones' mental approach. He has a polite, business-like demeanor off the field. And coaches say Jones is not the type to let preseason hype go to his head.
better. That humility he maintains will help him.''
Jones was familiar with Mark Dantonio from his days coaching at Cincinnati. When Dantonio and most of his assistants moved to Michigan State before the 2007 season, Jones set his sights on East Lansing.
Dantonio says Jones ``does everything 100 mph'' in games, practice and off-the-field conditioning drills.
``What I see in Greg is a tremendous work ethic,'' Dantonio said. ``What you see in the game is what you see in practice. The great ones that I've been around, that's what happens.''
It translates to game film.
``I love watching him,'' Montana State Coach Rob Ash said of Jones. ``He's athletic, he always stays on his feet. He comes downhill. He plays aggressively, he's smart. He makes plays.''
Jones is a student of the game and an avid film watcher. He's picked up tips from ex-Spartan linebackers including Percy Snow, who played with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, and Ike Reese, a former Philadelphia Eagle.
Jones is solid against the run and in blitz packages, piling up 14 tackles for lost yardage last season. But Jones says he needs to improve his pass coverage skills to evolve into a complete linebacker.
lldogs' 24-12 victory over Michigan State in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl. Moreno ends the play with his arms extended in celebration. Jones finishes sprawled out on the field in front of him.
``When I do jump back, I want to create some turnovers,'' Jones said. ``I have to improve in pass coverage.''
Michigan State coaches expect Jones will continue to improve.
``He will only get better, and that's the beauty of it,'' Dantonio said.

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