7 to See: Houston DE Chris Jones

I’ll be in Okolona tonight to see the Chieftains take on Houston and defensive end Chris Jones. Jones was one of our 7 To See in the 2012 Daily Journal Football Journal. Here’s the story that ran in the section.

Chris Jones was a basketball player switching schools. Two years removed from a promising prep career on the court at Nettleton, Jones has evolved into a monster defensive end at Houston.

The 6-foot-7, 270-pound senior will be switching schools against next season, too.

Until an impressive 40-time at a June camp at Mississippi State, he flew under the radar.

“I was swapping coaches, moving to different schools,” Jones said of his low-lying status. “At the camp, I just played my hardest and did everything to the fullest.”

MSU took him right off the radar at the June 11 camp after he ran a 4.7, 40-yard dash that caught a lot of attention before he committed to Dan Mullen.

Jones said he lost 20 pounds after the transfer. He played in only six games as he worked to establish residency but led the Class 4A Toppers in tackles per game with 9.4 and had five sacks.

Jones and the senior group have set a goal and it’s a big one. Houston has never won a playoff game and they want to change that. The Toppers went to the postseason last year for the sixth time.

“We’re going to see what we can do to change that,” first-year Houston coach William Cook said. “That’s the seniors’ goal, to win a playoff game and host a playoff game.”

Giving up his last season of high school basketball isn’t in his plans. He’s not even sold on giving it up in the Southeastern Conference.

He played in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star basketball games in July. Last season, he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“I’m going to try out basketball there but if it doesn’t work, I’m just going to leave it there,” Jones said. “Basketball was my first love but I seem to be better in football.”

Daily Journal 7 To See

Here are seven players we think fans should make time to see this season. From an excitement factor to a talent factor, colleges are taking notice and we think you should too.

Ross Smith
School: Booneville
Height/weight: 6-6, 305
Class: Senior
Wears: No. 79
Plays: LT
Hearing from: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt
Why he’s worth watching: “He has good, quick feet. He’s a good leader, has very long range and his work ethic is very good. He picked up a lot of strength, jumped nearly 80 pounds this winter on his bench. He worked really hard in the weightroom. He’s our anchor and we’re going to try to spot play him some on defense but he’s definitely going to have to help carry the load on offense.” – Booneville coach Mike Mattox

Duke Upshaw
School: Baldwyn
Height/weight: 5-11, 170
Class: Freshman
Wears: No. 2
Plays: RB/QB/S
Hearing from: With continued progression, it won’t be long, even for a freshman.
Why he’s worth watching: “You see all kinds of athletes and I’ve coached a lot of them. People say someone has that ‘it’ factor. But being the age he is, he has that ‘it’ factor. He doesn’t play like a freshman. He didn’t play like an eighth grader last year. Being in the system, you’re always going to gain experience. We’re asking him do a little bit more and he’s bought in. He understands what’s going on and what he’s got to do and the game is going to slow down to him.” – Baldwyn coach Michael Gray

Ashton Shumpert
School: Itawamba AHS
Height/weight: 6-2, 205
Class: Senior
Wears: No. 2
Plays: ATH, DB
Hearing from: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt
Why he’s worth watching: “Obviously his talent level goes without saying and I think his passion for the game. Any time the ball is snapped on offense or defense, you can tell he’s having fun on the field. Anytime you watch somebody who’s having fun or has great passion, people enjoy watching it. I think that’s what draws people, plus he’s a heck of an athlete and people love to watch great athletes.” – Itawamba AHS coach Toby Collums

Chico Harrison
School: Aberdeen
Height/weight: 5-11, 195
Class: Junior
Wears: No. 8
Plays: RB, LB, S
Hearing from: Missed sophomore season but breakout year should speed the process.
Why he’s worth watching: “He’s a combination of power and speed. He can run over you or outrun you. You don’t see that much anymore. You see the power guy or the quick guy. He can do both.” – Aberdeen coach Mark Bray
Dario Robinson
School: Amory
Height/weight: 5-10, 166
Class: Senior
Wears: No. 1
Plays: WR
Hearing from: Illinois, Middle Tennessee, Alcorn State, Louisiana Tech, South Alabama, Tennessee Martin
Why he’s worth watching: “The first thing is Dario is a hard-working kid. He’s got good speed, great hands and has the ability to change directions quickly. If the ball is in the air, he owns it. He has the idea that he’s going to catch every one that comes to him. That makes the kid hard to cover when he’s got all the physical tools and mentally he’s got the desire to say ‘The ball’s mine.’” – Amory coach Trent Hammond

D.K. Buford
School: Lafayette
Height/weight: 5-11, 185
Class: Junior
Wears: No. 2
Plays: RB, CB
Hearing from: Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Why he’s worth watching: “His speed. He’s just so explosive, breakaway speed. We’ll try to throw to him some.” – Lafayette coach Eric Robertson

Chris Jones
School: Houston
Height/weight: 6-7, 270
Class: Senior
Wears: No. 98
Plays: DE
Hearing from: Mississippi State commit
Why he’s worth watching: “He’s an athletic guy. He has natural ability, size and speed and agility. He’s competitive, aggressive and coming after you. He has really stepped up his leadership on this team, taking control and a lot of kids are following behind him.” – Houston coach William Cook
Brandon Speck, Gene Phelps