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Texas S Brandon Jones says he has ‘so much to prove this year’

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The junior is expected to have a breakout season.

NCAA Football: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Now a junior and with the experience of starting for a full season, Texas Longhorns safety Brandon Jones is intent on making a name for himself in 2018:

On National Signing Day in 2016, Jones made a high-profile announcement on national television, choosing the Longhorns over the Aggies and numerous other programs. Despite the fact that TexAgs had filmed an entire documentary about him. Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 safety, Jones was expected to come to Texas and make a quick impact.

As a freshman, Jones wasn’t quite ready for the demands of starting in the Big 12, struggling in his only start against Oklahoma State. However, Jones did prove his ability on special teams, blocking two punts — only three other players have accomplished that feat in back-to-back games.

Jones took a step forward under defensive coordinator Todd Orlando as a first-year starter last season, finishing third on the team with 61 tackles, including four tackles for loss, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble.

The forced fumble was the first truly impact play made by Jones at Texas. Early in the road game against West Virginia as Texas was fighting for bowl eligibility, Jones had to take the correct angle to reach quarterback Will Grier just before he reached over the goal line. Jones hit Grier and knocked the ball loose and out the side of the end zone for a touchback that helped Texas take control of the game early. Grier was injured on the play and didn’t return, allowing the Longhorns to reach six wins for the first time since 2013.

With DeShon Elliott off the NFL, Jones is expected to become the leader among the safeties and emerge as one of the Big 12’s best players at the position. The talent and athleticism are there, it’s just time for Jones to put it all today.

The spring produced some cause for optimism.

“To me, Brandon has been exceptional,” Orlando said. “I don’t usually bring that word up. You guys hear me talk and I probably do that a handful of times, but he’s had an unbelievable spring.

“He’s playing like what he was advertised as an athlete. I think last year there was some hesitation, some things that he wasn’t really sure about himself, now he’s doing it. You can see his big speed.”

Reducing hesitation could be the key to unlocking all the potential possessed by Jones — all it takes is a wrong step or poor angle to result in missed tackles or a busted coverage.

“He’s been doing a great job of tackling,” Orlando said. “That’s the one thing I’ve been unbelievably impressed with.”

Now Jones is ready to show off all that improvement on the field.