Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Hiring Indiana Cornerbacks Coach
The Tar Heels’ defensive staff will likely only be undergoing one change this offseason after the mutual departure of Dré Bly earlier this month. Per a report on Sunday night, the Tar Heels appear to have filled that lone opening.
Matt Zenitz, senior national college football reporter for On3 Sports, is reporting that Indiana cornerbacks coach Jason Jones will be reuniting with Charlton Warren, whom he worked with during the 2021 season with the Hoosiers. Jones spent each of the three seasons in Bloomington as the safeties coach, helping to coach one of the nation’s most aggressive secondaries. In 2020, Jones’ safeties were part of a defense that finished second nationally in interceptions as both Jamar Johnson and Devon Matthews earned all-conference honors. Johnson’s departure for the NFL, Indiana’s first drafted safety since 1996, led to a bit of a step back in 2021, but the safeties still graded out well and not a single one allowed more than 253 yards receiving. 2022 was a major struggle for the secondary as a whole, as the Hoosiers allowed 274.2 passing yards per game, but the safeties were clearly stronger than the corners and the grades showed that.
Prior to his time at Indiana, Jones was the cornerbacks coach for one season in 2019 at Florida Atlantic. He was part of an Owls defense that created a nations-best 33 takeaways, led by cornerback Meiko Dotson, who tied for the national lead in interceptions with nine.
From 2013-18, Jones served as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the Ole Miss Rebels, which saw his secondaries create plenty of turnovers. Senquez Golson was named a consensus first-team All-American and was a Nagurski Award finalist in 2014 when he finished second in the country in interceptions with ten. Mike Hilton, current Cincinnati Bengals cornerback, was also a big part of Jones’ defensive backfields in his first three seasons in Oxford, being named a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist in 2015. His final three units weren’t nearly as successful as his first three, but a majority of the defensive issues that the team had were because of porous run defense.
Before he was with the Rebels, Jones’ first big job was with the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 2008-12. In his five seasons there, his corners earned six All-Big 12 honors and he coached three of the best corners in program history. Perris Cox and Brodrick Brown were Jim Thorpe semifinalists at one point in their careers and Justin Gilbert, a future top ten pick in the NFL Draft was recruited to campus and played his first couple of seasons under Jones.
The struggles that Indiana had in pass defense this year bring about some concerns and rightfully so, but there is no overlooking Jones’ impressive past. He has coached ten players since 2008 that finished with four or more interceptions in a season, including four Jim Thorpe Award semifinalists and one Bronco Nagurski Award finalist. His aggressive mindset toward creating turnovers fits well with the system that Gene Chizik runs and the hope is that it will transition to Chapel Hill the way it has everywhere else.