He's regained the 2001 season he lost to academics.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- A few seconds after Youngstown State's defense stuffed the offense on a play during Tuesday's practice, junior linebacker Jeff Koval started pacing the sidelines saying, "I love it when the offensive players start yelling at each other."
"We've got some talented guys on defense," senior cornerback Herb Jones said. "[Cornerback Jason Perry] is a real tough guy who we count on and we've got a lot of good guys returning. The new guys just need to step up."
Jones is not a new guy. He wasn't even expecting to be an old guy. He sat out his freshman year in 2001 in order to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. He knew he wouldn't be done with classes last spring, so Jones played last season expecting it to be his last.
But the NCAA changed its eligibility rules in offseason, allowing Jones to regain his lost season.
He's now looking to help solidify a talented defensive backfield for the Penguins, who are trying to improve on last year's 4-7 record.
"This season was like a gift from God," Jones said. "I thought my career was over. I was thrilled when I got another opportunity."
Jones, 5-10, 184-pounds, started the final six games of last season for the Penguins after missing the first five with injuries. He finished with 33 tackles, including 11 in a game at Southwest Missouri State. He earned his first letter two years ago, playing in 11 games and starting one.
Jones had knee surgery after last season and spent the spring rehabbing the injury. He didn't regain his eligibility until after spring practice, but he wouldn't have been healthy enough to play anyway.
The missed time dropped him to third on the depth chart, but he's optimistic he'll move up.
"The leg's strong and I just need to get the nicks and the kinks out of me," he said. "I'm excited about getting the opportunity to play a second senior season and be a positive example. I want to produce for this team."
Graduation is near
The Twinsburg High graduate is just seven classes short of graduating from YSU and should be done with school in the spring. He's majoring in Criminal Justice and plans to be either a parole or a probation officer.
"I'm not sure which one yet," he said.
He's also eager to start playing in full pads. The Penguins have practiced in shells the past few days and will play in full pads on Thursday after today's media day.
Jones isn't the biggest guy on the field, but he doesn't shy away from contact.
"I love to hit," Jones said. "I'm excited to get back in rhythm and get back to where I was. I play aggressive and I love to be in full pads."
Even in the heat?
"Well, that's one setback to playing in August," he said, laughing.
"But you don't notice it on the field. When you're off the field, that's when you notice."