They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but don't tell that to Ben Jones.
One of the oldest Dawgs on the roster said he has been working on a few things to help both him and the team -- a task that will require picking up a few new traits.
"I've really been focusing on my drive and being able to lead more, really being more vocal," Jones said. "In the past I'd just do what I was supposed to do and just get it done. But now I'm trying to make sure I get mine and make sure I get everyone else on the same page."
Getting everyone in sync means taking some extra time playing coach with some of the newcomers. Jones said he has been working with Jonathan Jenkins, giving advice and also helping to get him up to speed on Grantham's 3-4 defense.
"Because I've played against a lot of guys in the SEC and he's like, 'Ok, what can make me better?' I'm just like, hand placement stuff, getting off the ball-you're 360-pounds, if you come off the ball, you'll be fine. Because at first he was kind of guessing, he didn't know what to do at first. I said, if you don't know what to do, just fire off the ball and you can make a big difference right there, just doing that," Jones said."I remember Saturday, he was like 'Why is Coach G telling me to do this on one thing and one thing'. I said, 'You have to think where the strength is. Alright, you are the strength guy on this one play, you're the weak guy on that, and that is why he is telling you to fit behind it on this play and play hard and front side on this play.' And he's like 'oh, because I never knew why he was saying that.' We're just giving him little pointers and when your coach isn't always on your back, it just helps out a little bit."
Jones' coaching responsibilities also extend beyond the turf. With classes starting Monday, Jones made sure the freshmen were prepared to make it to the classroom so they won't run into eligibility issues down the road.
"Saturday night I was circling all of (Amarlo) Herrera's classes for him. I was like, ok, this is where this building is at, take this bus. And he's like, I can just walk. I was like, trust me, you're going to take the bus. You're on north campus here and then you're going to be going all the way back down south. Trust me, take this bus and it'll take you 10 minutes," Jones said."They just don't understand how big the campus really is and if you aren't on that bus, you're going to waiting and you'll be 30 minutes late."
One thing that Jones said will not come too late this year is team chemistry. He said the difference between this year and last has been readily apparent throughout the offseason.
"I would say we are more of a team. I mean, we really came together this camp. We hung out together, no one ever left. We were all just shooting pool, watching tv. Guys actually brought their Playstations in there because they didn't want to leave," Jones said. "When you are there till 11o'clock at night, playing pool, I can see the team actually wants to be together more."
Not only has the team gotten to spend a ton of time with each other, but also with their playbooks, which should be much more robust this year, according to Jones.
"We are all the way installed, so we got that all in during camp, because that is what camp really is. You might practice one time for two hours but the rest - 15 hours - is all meetings and walk-throughs, so in that time you really get a grasp of the whole playbook," Jones said. "(Aaron) Murray has been working really hard and last year he was a freshman and they kind of sheltered him a little bit and they might not have opened up the whole play book to him, but definitely this year Coach (Mike) Bobo is throwing it all out there. He has a grasp on everything so now we can come into the game plan, with instead of 50 plays, maybe 80 or 90, and that helps the whole offense."
Jones said while the playbook is opening up, they will try to maintain a good balance.
"We are still going to come out and try to run the ball like last year and we still got a great pass attack this year. We've got Murray coming back, and we got Marlon (Brown), Tavarres King, and also Malcolm Mitchell really coming in and doing well, and of course we've got Orson (Charles). So we can do both, which really helps us as a whole offense, not being just dominant in pass or run or just one thing."
Whether they decide to get it done on the ground or in the air, Jones assessment of the offensive line gives the indication that he thinks they are equipped with the right personnel to get the job done.
"I think (Justin Anderson) has been doing great. He's really a terror on the run block and he can come down on you and he's probably one of the most athletic guys out of the first five. He's got probably the fastest feet I've ever seen. Sometimes coach Grantham is just like, calm down, you're going too fast. But that's always a good thing, telling someone to slow down," Jones said. "Dallas (Lee) has been doing really good as well. He worked really hard in the summer getting back into the plays and also getting in shape-because that was also one of the really big things, getting back in playing shape. And he really did well today and he's been doing well. He's been rotating at center and guard so he can play a lot of positions for us and that is always needed. He's in playing shape now. If we needed him he could step right in and play."
But with lots of time still to prepare before worrying about who needs to fill in where, Jones said the team has been able to keep fresh as possible as they prepare for the season to start.
"I'd say right now we are back on track (mentally and physically) because we got Sunday off and we are off (Tuesday) so we just got a good break and that's always nice," Jones said. "So we just went for 12 straight days hard and getting to go home and sleep in your bed is really nice for me I know."