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‘We’re Debo Birds': The Atlanta Falcons select LSU’s Deion Jones with the 21st pick of the second round

Deion Jones' aunt, Sheereen Gaines, grabs the former LSU linebacker as he's drafted. Seated on the couch, Jones' father, Cal, is on the right. His mother, Tahonas, is on the left.

Deion Jones’ aunt, Sheereen Gaines, grabs the former LSU linebacker as he’s drafted. Seated on the couch, Jones’ father, Cal, is on the right. His mother, Tahonas, is on the left.

A year ago, Deion Jones had started one college football game, never finished a single game with more than five tackles and never sacked a quarterback.

On Friday night, surrounded by friends and family at his aunt’s home in Harvey, the kid they call “Debo” became an instant millionaire – and a dirty bird, too.

The Atlanta Falcons selected the former LSU linebacker with the 21st pick – 52nd overall – in the second round of the NFL draft, eliciting a mad celebration from the more than 50 gathered at Shelly Hall’s home in this New Orleans suburb.

“I am dirty,” Jones’ father, Cal, said after the selection while sitting next to his son. “I’m a dirty bird!”

That didn’t last long. Minutes later, one of Deion’s relatives thought of a new name for this family.

“We’re Debo Birds!”

Jones, a 6-foot-1, 222-pounder, became the first LSU player selected in the 2016 draft – an impressive feat for a guy who served as a backup until his senior year last season. He broke onto the scene in 2015, leading LSU with 100 tackles as the Tigers’ weak-side linebacker.

His stock climbed over the last four months, too.

About 10 minutes before the draft Friday night, Deion Jones sits on his aunt's couch, his "Godbrother" on his knee.

About 10 minutes before the draft Friday night, Deion Jones sits on his aunt’s couch, his “Godbrother” on his knee.

The ex-Jesuit standout excelled during the week at the Senior Bowl in January, performed well at the NFL combine in February and, in March, then ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time – nearly unheard of for a linebacker – at LSU’s pro day.

The speedster entered his senior year known more for his prowess on special teams. He was dubbed “The War Daddy” by some LSU players for his vicious hits on the kickoff team.

Turns out, he can tackle on defense, too. Kwon Alexander’s early departure to the NFL draft opened the door last year for Jones’ starting role.

“He wasn’t even on the radar going into (the 2015 season),” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said on ESPN’s telecast after the selection.

Jones spent Friday watching from a gray sectional couch, flanked by agent Jason Rosenhaus and his mother, Tahonas – all of them watching a 50-plus inch Panasonic blaring ESPN’s coverage to more than 30 people shoved in the room. An ESPN camera, positioned on a tripod in the middle of the living area, focused on Jones. His reaction to the selection aired on the network in tape delay.

More than 50 family members and friends roared, collapsing upon the ex-Tiger.

According to spotrac.com, the projected signing bonus for that selection is $1.6 million – quite the boost for this family. Deion’s father, Cal, drove a taxi cab in New Orleans for more than a decade before getting a job with his neighbor’s electrical and AC company. His mother is a Subway restaurant manager.

About 10 minutes before the pick was announced on the ESPN telecast, Jones got the call from the Falcons.

Before that, it was relaxed but anxious in the home off Destrehan Avenue. Rosenhaus, brother to Drew Rosenhaus, warned Jones and family of the potential for a long, nerve-filled night ahead.

The Jones family in a pre-draft prayer.

The Jones family in a pre-draft prayer.

“It’s going to be a ride. Buckle in,” he said just before ESPN’s coverage began. “You’re most likely to go in the middle of the second to the middle of the third.”

Members of the family bowed their heads moments later for a prayer – a move Rosehaus suggested.

By 7 p.m., a fourth linebacker was selected in the first 11 picks of the second round. None of them were Jones. Rosenhaus kept positive on the couch, phone in one hand and a blue ink pen in another as he jotted notes on a yellow pad.

At 7:40 p.m., Jones and Rosenhaus received near simultaneous phone calls – he was off to the Falcons.

More LSU Football

LSU Spring Position Recap: Secondary

Tre White didn't just cover receivers in the spring game - he held for this kickoff during a windy day. (BILL FEIG)

Tre White didn’t just cover receivers in the spring game – he held for this kickoff during a windy day. (BILL FEIG)

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Secondary

Spring Depth Chart (immediate backup)

  • CB: Tre’Davious White (Dwayne Thomas)
  • CB: Ed Paris (Saivion Smith)
  • S: Rickey Jefferson (Dwayne Thomas)
  • S: Jamal Adams (Xavier Lewis)
  • NB: Saivion Smith (Dwayne Thomas)

Projected Fall Depth Chart

  • CB: Tre’Davious White  (Dwayne Thomas)
  • CB: Kevin Toliver (Ed Paris)
  • S: Rickey Jefferson (Dwayne Thomas)
  • S: Jamal Adams (John Battle)
  • NB: Donte Jackson (Xavier Lewis)

Three Things Learned

  • No change here: LSU’s front seven is undergoing several changes in the Tigers’ new 3-4 defense. There are no defensive “tackles.” There’s a nose tackle, a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker and, sometimes, just two linemen with their hand on the ground. For the secondary, there’s not much changing. In fact, LSU will play man-to-man defense more than they ever have, if you listen to Aranda.
  • “Three starters:” The Tigers don’t only have two starting cornerbacks. Secondary coach Corey Raymond told us a few weeks ago that he considers Tre White, Kevin Toliver and Donte Jackson as starting cornerbacks. Jackson missed the latter half of spring practice, an academic casualty in the spring. He’s expected to qualify by the time preseason camp begins. He evolved into the Tigers’ starting nickelback late last season.

    Saivion Smith, at times, covered Malachi Dupre in the spring game. (BILL FEIG)

    Saivion Smith, at times, covered Malachi Dupre in the spring game. (BILL FEIG)

  • No. 1 rookie: Four scholarship defensive backs missed the Tigers’ spring game. Rickey Jefferson, John Battle, Kevin Toliver and Donte Jackson – three of those considered starters – all missed the game. Their replacements gave us a glimpse of what the Tigers’ depth chart looks like,. One of the replacements? Freshman Saivion Smith, a mid-year enrollee. He played with LSU’s first-string defense in the nickel formation, replacing Tre White as an outside cornerback. White slid over to the nickel position.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

LSU Spring Position Recap: Linebacker

Devin White impressed new DC Dave Aranda (background) during spring. (Travis Spradling)

Devin White impressed new DC Dave Aranda (background) during spring. (Travis Spradling)

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Linebacker

Spring Depth Chart (immediate backup):

  • Mack (ILB): Kendell Beckwith (Devin White)
  • Rover (ILB): Duke Riley (Donnie Alexander)
  • F (OLB): Tashawn Bower (Corey Thompson)

Projected Fall Depth Chart:

  • Mack (ILB): Kendell Beckwith (Devin White)
  • Rover (ILB): Duke Riley (Donnie Alexander)
  • F (OLB): Corey Thompson (Michael Divinity/Rahssan Thornton)

Three Things Learned

  • Impressive rookie: Devin White was on campus all of two months when LSU cranked up spring football practice. A week into drills, new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda told a couple of reporters that White had impressed him. Coach Les Miles, later during spring, praised White, too. The freshman even led LSU in tackles during one scrimmage. It’s clear White will have a role this upcoming season as the immediate backup to Kendell Beckwith and a key special teams player.
  • The F: LSU’s two new outside linebacker positions are the F (most similar to a strong-side linebacker) and the Buck (a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid). The Buck is included in our Spring Position Recap for defensive line. Why? Buck players practice during individual position drills with the D-line. The F is more of a traditional outside linebacker, dropping into coverage often, whereas the Buck rushes more often. You see a change in our F linebacker depth chart above. We eliminated Tashawn Bower, who was moved there midway through spring practice. I’m not certain Bower remains in that position, and coaches really like Thompson.

    Deion Jones is expected to be picked in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday. (BRIANNA PACIORKA)

    Deion Jones is expected to be picked in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday. (BRIANNA PACIORKA)

  • Duke, the new Deion: The Rover role in LSU’s new 3-4 defense is similar to a weak-side linebacker, a versatile player who can blitz, play the run and cover in space – the same one Deion Jones did so well last year and Kwon Alexander held the season before. Can Duke be the next Deion? He’s a four-year player finally getting his chance to star.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

LSU Spring Position Recap: Defensive line

Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal close in on QB Danny Etling. (Bill Feig)

Davon Godchaux and Lewis Neal close in on QB Danny Etling. (Bill Feig)

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Defensive line

Spring Depth Chart (immediate backup):

  • DE: Lewis Neal (Deondre Clark)
  • NT: Christian LaCouture (Greg Gilmore)
  • DE: Davon Godchaux (Frank Herron)
  • Buck (OLB/DE): Arden Key (Isaiah Washington)

Projected Fall Depth Chart:

  • DE: Lewis Neal (Deondre Clark)
  • NT: Davon Godchaux (Greg Gilmore/Rashard Lawrence)
  • DE: Christian LaCouture (Frank Herron)
  • Buck (OLB/DE): Arden Key (Tashawn Bower)

Three Things Learned:

  • In search of a nose: Two weeks before LSU’s spring game and more than halfway through the Tigers’ spring practice, the coaching staff moved Davon Godchaux from end to nose tackle and Christian LaCouture from nose tackle to end. It’s a sign of the team’s situation at nose tackle. LSU is in search of a nose – one of the must-have positions in the 3-4 defense. The search continues in preseason camp. Is it Godchaux? Do they move LaCouture back? Will a freshman like Edwin Alexander or Rashard Lawrence take over?
  • The Key spot: Arden Key is a strong fit for his new role as an outside linebacker/defense end. That was made abundantly clear during spring practice – from interviews with players and coaches. There’s more hype around this rangy, athletic sophomore than any other player as the Tigers break in new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 scheme. Key is one of the primary
    Arden Key, in the background, during a Leonard Fournette run in the spring game. (Bill Feig)

    Arden Key, in the background, during a Leonard Fournette run in the spring game. (Bill Feig)

    playmakers in the restructured front seven. He’ll drop into coverage some (he had an interception in a spring scrimmage), rush the passer (Les Miles says he was in the backfield more than any other player this spring) and play the run, too. Why did we list Key’s position with the defensive line and not the linebackers? During practice, the Buck players still work with the D-line during individual position drills. Why did we include Tashawn Bower as Key’s backup in the fall depth chart? We’re assuming that Bower will move from his OLB position (the F) to the Buck. It’s just a guess.

  • Much more to install: Miles said Aranda installed only about 60 percent of his defense during the 14 spring practices, spread over five weeks. Talk to Aranda and he’ll say he installed even less. The new DC says he implemented just three packages. D-line coach Ed Orgeron said there could be 20-plus more packages. It’ll be a long summer and preseason camp – mentally – for coaches and players. Summer workouts begin in early June. Coaches can meet with players for two hours each week for an eight-week period starting then.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

LSU Spring Position Recap: Backfield

Leonard Fournette signs autographs after LSU's student day at spring practice. (Patrick Dennis)

Leonard Fournette signs autographs after LSU’s student day at spring practice. (Patrick Dennis)

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Backfield

Spring Depth Chart (immediate backup):

  • RB: Leonard Fournette (Derrius Guice)
  • FB: Bry’Kiethon Mouton (David Ducre)

Projected Fall Depth Chart:

  • RB: Leonard Fournette (Derrius Guice)
  • FB: John David Moore (Bry’Kiethon Mouton)

Three Things Learned:

  • Break time: Leonard Fournette got a break during spring practice. Fearing injury, coaches let Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams do much of the running in spring. For example, Fournette carried the ball just four times in one spring scrimmage and “a couple” in another, Les Miles said. He toted the rock eight times in the spring game – probably even more than expected.
  • Guice is No. 2: If, before spring, you thought Derrius Guice wasn’t the immediate backup to Fournette, you should believe it after spring. Guice only received 3 carries (for 17 yards) in the spring game – more a product of LSU passing the ball so much – but the former Catholic high standout got many of Fournette’s carries in spring scrimmages and in normal practices while coaches rested their Heisman hopeful.

    David Ducre, center back, warming up with LSU running backs. (Bill Feig)

    David Ducre, center back, warming up with LSU running backs. (Bill Feig)

  • Ducre moving up: The No. 1-ranked fullback in the 2015 signing class, Ducre played sparingly as a freshman last year, as coaches needed to burn his redshirt after the injury to starter J.D. Moore. Ducre’s spring was strong enough to have new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke raving about him. Ducre slid into the No. 2 FB spot with Moore missing spring. His role appears to be growing for this upcoming season. Juluke said he was getting some running back carries, too.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

LSU TE Dillon Gordon’s college career over after NCAA decision

Dillon Gordon.

Dillon Gordon.

LSU tight end Dillon Gordon’s request for a fifth year of eligibility was denied, and he’ll enter the NFL draft, he announced on his Twitter account on Friday.

Dillon Gordon's message on Twitter.

Dillon Gordon’s message on Twitter.

Gordon, a 310-pound run-blocking senior from Edgard, was appealing to the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility. Gordon played in just three games of his senior season last year before rupturing his Achilles tendon in the sixth game of the season against Florida.

According to the NCAA rule, a player can receive another year of eligibility if they played less than one-third of the season – all of it coming in the first half of the season (excluding bowl games). Gordon played in part of three games, and the Tigers’ game against Florida was the sixth in an 11-game regular season.

An LSU spokesman had no comment when reached Friday.

LSU wasn’t necessarily hopeful. Miles said a few months ago he was “50-50″ on the waiver. The coach said two months ago at LSU’s pro day that Gordon was healthy enough to participate in spring practice if cleared.

Dillon Gordon after rupturing his Achilles. (Bill Feig)

Dillon Gordon after rupturing his Achilles. (Bill Feig)

“He’s physically capable,” Miles said.

Gordon served as LSU’s key run-blocker, walling off the edge with his 300-pound frame. He started 13 and 12 games as a junior and sophomore in 2014 and 2013.

His departure leaves LSU with Colin Jeter – 60 pounds lighter than Gordon – as the Tigers’ starting tight end. Rising sophomore Foster Moreau is expected to be the backup. He weighs 260 pounds.

More LSU Football

 

 

LSU Spring Position Recap: Receiver

Malachi Dupre ran into an old friend at LSU's spring game. (Bill Feig)

Malachi Dupre ran into an old friend at LSU’s spring game. (Bill Feig)

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Receiver

Spring Depth Chart:

  • X: Malachi Dupre (Dee Anderson/Tyron Johnson)
  • Z: D.J. Chark (Tyron Johnson)
  • Y: Jazz Ferguson (Stephen Sullivan)

Projected Fall Depth Chart:

  • X: Malachi Dupre (Dee Anderson/Tyron Johnson)
  • Z: Travin Dural (D.J. Chark)
  • Y: Jazz Ferguson (Malachi Dupre)

Three Things Learned:

  • Jazz and Dee: Jazz Ferguson and Dee Anderson are expected to have bigger roles than many might have thought. That’s at least according to what we saw during spring. Ferguson, a sophomore who played very little last year, served as LSU’s No. 3 receiver during the spring, mostly lining up in the slot. Coach Les Miles said the staff is”turning to Jazz and seeing what he wants to accomplish.” Anderson, a mid-year enrollee, played WR with the second-string during the spring game and had one of the better catches of the day. He’s 6-foot-5.
  • Tyron has work to do: Tyron Johnson, the state’s No. 1 player last year, needs a great summer and solid preseason camp to work his way into LSU’s typical three-receiver rotation. He appears to be behind, at least, Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, D.J. Chark, Jazz Ferguson and, possibly, Dee Anderson. Johnson participated with the second-string offense in the spring game. During spring practices, Johnson was often toward the back of the rotation during individual drills – behind, even mid-year guys like Anderson and Stephen Sullivan. That’s usually a sign of the pecking order.
  • Craig’s influence: Dameyune Craig is bringing a physical brand to
    Dameyune Craig watches D.J. Chark during a Big Cat drill.

    Dameyune Craig watches D.J. Chark during a Big Cat drill.

    LSU’s receiver group – at least that’s what he wants to bring, as he told us in this Q&A. Did he accomplish that during spring? It’s tough to tell just yet, but he’s determined to have his receivers be just as physical as any other position, and he gets excited when they flash that during the Big Cat drill. Craig’s influence doesn’t stop there. Receivers, OC Cam Cameron and QB Brandon Harris have all agreed that the former Auburn QB is helping LSU’s passing game, too.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

LSU Spring Position Recap: Quarterback

Brandon Harris is the presumed starter for 2016.

Brandon Harris is the presumed starter for 2016.

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Quarterback

Spring Depth Chart:

  • Brandon Harris
  • Danny Etling
  • Justin McMillan
  • Caleb Lewis

Projected Fall Depth Chart:

  • Brandon Harris
  • Danny Etling
  • Justin McMillan
  • Caleb Lewis

Three Things Learned:

  • Harris clear leader: The rising junior receiver took all, if not most, of the snaps with the starting group in the spring game and in the final spring scrimmage a week earlier. Also, coach Les Miles, after that final scrimmage, said this of Harris: “He’s ready to be the quarterback.” In a Q&A, Cam Cameron raved about Harris’ progression over the last few months, his maturity and growth. It’s pretty clear that Harris will have to get beat in camp not to start the season.

    Cam Cameron and Danny Etling. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

    Cam Cameron and Danny Etling. (HILARY SCHEINUK)

  • Etling the perfect backup: Smart, consistent, hard-worker. Those are words people use to describe Purdue Transfer Danny Etling, and they’re why many believe he’s the perfect backup quarterback to have if Harris were to go down with injury or if he were to have a struggling stretch in 2016.
  • A different QB  battle: Don’t only think Etling is there to back up Harris. He’s trying to win the starting job, and that’s exactly what coaches want – a QB battle, for someone to push Harris to work harder, longer, etc. This is a different QB battle than the one Harris and Athony Jenning were locked in over the previous two years. This competition seems more cordial and friendly. For example, quarterbacks are gathering off the field to study tape and the playbook, Cameron said.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

LSU Spring Position Recap: Offensive line

LSU will have two new starters on the 2016 offensive line. (Bill Feig)

LSU will have two new starters on the 2016 offensive line. (Bill Feig)

LSU Spring Position Recap is a 7-part series highlighting each position’s performance during spring and outlook heading into summer workouts.

Position: Offensive line

Spring Starting Lineup (immediate backup):

  • LT: Maea Teuhema (Chidi Okeke)
  • LG:  Garrett Brumfield (Adrian Magee)
  • C: Andy Dodd (K.J. Malone)
  • RG: Josh Boutte (Adrian Magee)
  • RT: Toby Weathersby (K.J. Malone)

Projected Fall Starting Lineup (immediate backup):

  • LT: Maeau Teuhema (K.J. Malone)
  • LG: Will Clapp (Garrett Brumfield)
  • C: Ethan Pocic (Andy Dodd)
  • RG: Josh Boutte (Garrett Brumfield)
  • RT: Toby Weathersby (K.J. Malone)

Three Things Learned:

  • Maea at left tackle: Teuhema, a rising sophomore who started as a true freshman last season, moved from left guard to left tackle. Coaches hope he can secure that spot, but, if not, Ethan Pocic could potentially move to left tackle in preseason camp. Teuhema struggled, at times, in the spring game against the talented Arden Key and veteran Christian LaCouture.
  • The right fit: Could LSU have two true sophomores at the tackles? Yep. Toby Weathersby worked with the first-string for the first three weeks of LSU’s five-week spring practice before he stepped aside with an unknown injury. This position doesn’t seem completely stable, though. It appears that K.J. Malone is seriously pushing Weathersby for playing time here. Malone started the spring game with Weathersby out.

    Josh Boutte and Garrett Brumfield are competing at guard.

    Josh Boutte and Garrett Brumfield are competing at guard.

  • Guard battle: Aside from Pocic’s potential move to left tackle, the right/left guard position is one to watch during preseason camp. Garrett Brumfield appears to be challenging projected starter Josh Boutte. Is this finally Boutte’s year? It appears so, but don’t sleep on Brumfield, who battled injuries early this spring and last preseason camp.

LSU Spring Position Recaps

APR scores are in: LSU football drops to a 10-year low, but still above penalty benchmark

(Bill Feig)

(Bill Feig)

The LSU football team’s multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) score dropped to a 10-year low, but the Tigers are comfortably above the penalty benchmark, according to documents released by the NCAA on Wednesday.

The football team has a four-year APR score of 941, the worst since it registered a 941 in 2005-06. Teams need to be at or above a 930 to avoid penalties, such as practice time and scholarship reductions. The 941 is the worst score of any LSU sport, joining women’s basketball (949) as the only other group under the 950 mark.

apr_explain_new

Click to enlarge.

APR is a way for the NCAA to monitor academic performance and retention among its member schools. APR is calculated using a points system. Each scholarship player is expected to earn two points each year – one for remaining enrolled in school and the other for being academically eligible. A teams’ total points are divided by 1,000 to equal the APR.

Each April the previous year’s APR score is released, along with the multi-year scores for the four-year cycles.

Four LSU sports have perfect multi-year APR scores (1000), meaning no player transferred and no player was academically ineligible. Those include women’s tennis and men’s tennis, women’s golf and men’s cross country.

The baseball team has an APR of 958, 12 points below the NCAA average for baseball, and men’s basketball’s 970 is six points better than the NCAA average. The NCAA average for women’s basketball is 978, 29 points higher than LSU’s score in that sport.

The football team’s score of 941 is 18 points below the NCAA average for football (959) and the lowest in the SEC, falling nine points beneath Kentucky (950).

The program’s multi-year score should improve next year. As part of the four-year cycle, the school will drop its 2011-12 score of 910. The football team’s single-year 2014-15 score was 931, also low. The 2013-14 single-year score was 955, and the 2012-13 score was 973.

Why were the scores last year and in 2011-12 so bad? Much of it involves players either leaving for the NFL draft or transferring while they’re academically ineligible.

The program’s had a whopping 23 players leave early for the draft over the previous four years and that’s excluding dozens of seniors. Those players must be academically eligible upon their departure for the school to avoid losing at least one of their two points.

The best example of this might be those draft-bound players who enroll in the spring semester of their junior and senior years and do not complete that semester.

LSU sports’ multi-year APR scores (2011-12 to 2014-15)

Sport Score
Women’s Tennis 1000
Women’s Golf 1000
Men’s Tennis 1000
Men’s Cross Country 1000
Women’s Gymnastics 991
Women’s Swimming and Diving 990
Men’s Swimming and Diving 990
Women’s Volleyball 989
Men’s Golf 986
Softball 984
Women’s Track 983
Women’s Cross Country 983
Women’s Soccer 976
Men’s Basketball 973
Men’s Track 963
Baseball 958
Women’s Basketball 949
Football 941

 

LSU football multi-year APR scores

Year Score
2014-15 941
2013-14 947
2012-13 946
2011-12 944
2010-11 964
2009-10 966
2008-09 965
2007-08 960
2006-07 946
2005-06 941
2004-05 935