Nebraska defensive back Chris Jones has big plans for himself and reconfigured Blackshirts in his final season as a Husker

NU senior Chris Jones is the Big Ten’s top 2018 draft prospect at cornerback, according to

LINCOLN — Given where Chris Jones plays on a football field — out on an island at cornerback, just a man and his assignment — perhaps it makes sense.

The senior who may be NU’s best overall player doesn’t talk much to the media. He’s often quiet and focused and declined interview requests during spring practice because he had class or had to lift weights. Other Husker players had those things, too, but still didn’t mind shooting a little breeze.

Jones, on the other hand, was on to the next task. Which could be why defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Jones approaches his work with “professionalism.”

But once Nebraska’s spring game ended, Jones made an appearance in front of the media. The captain candidate from Jacksonville, Florida, chatted after one quarterback (Patrick O’Brien) and before another (Tanner Lee). Jones himself sounded like a quarterback — of the defense.

That unit is in transition at NU, with its third coordinator in four seasons with Diaco and a new 3-4 scheme.

“It’s going to have its rough edges in the beginning,” Jones said. “But as it goes on, it’s going to get better and better.”

Former coordinator Mark Banker’s attacking 4-3 scheme often put a lot of pressure on the corners to win man-to-man matchups. Jones won more than his share as a junior. He had three interceptions and 10 pass breakups and received honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in a league stacked with star cornerbacks. How stacked? According to, four Big Ten corners are among the 2017 NFL draft’s top 100 overall prospects, including the top two cornerbacks, both from Ohio State.

As of this week, ranks Jones as the top Big Ten corner for the 2018 draft, and No. 12 overall at the position. Jones announced in January he was returning for his senior season; the spring game marked his first public comments since the announcement.

Jones said he sets high goals for himself. To others, the bar may appear to exceed his grasp, but there’s a purpose behind his goal-setting.

“It’s going to make me focus on so many different little things — in order for me to be a better corner, in order for me to reach those goals,” Jones said. “To people, they may seem like, ‘Oh, he’s just writing goals that he may not achieve.’ To me, those are goals I can achieve. But I can control that. Nobody else can.”

It’s clear that new cornerbacks coach Donte Williams has had an impact on Jones’ approach. Williams is different from his predecessors, Charlton Warren and Brian Stewart. Williams generally stands right in the middle of drills, offering immediate, direct feedback. The conversation carries over to the next rep and the next. Jones rarely drew any criticism from Williams — certainly not to the degree younger players did — but the style has created a culture of immediate, direct accountability that Williams trickles down to the players.

Jones said he’s had to learn to accept when a freshman corrects him.

“I can make a mistake and he can tell me something,” Jones said. “I’ll just bite my tongue and lead by example.”

He wants to become a more aggressive tackler — more aggressive, period. Lee and O’Brien — more accurate passers than their predecessors — have helped make him a better cornerback because they “fit throws into tight spots.”

Above all, Jones has a business mindset. His Twitter account — among the most expressive of any Husker’s — frequently has allusions to Jones’ drive and ambition.

“See, fame is when people know you, notoriety is when people know yo work,” Jones wrote recently.

Another post: “Everyday I step on the field with my brothers it’s never I or me it’s always WE!!!!”

Another: “It feels good to be the underdog they never see you comin.”

Jones has tunnel vision headed into his senior year at Nebraska.

“I may have had a bad day all day — heard some bad news or something like that — but when it’s time to go out there on that field, nothing else matters,” Jones said after the spring game. “It’s strictly about football. It’s about my teammates. It’s about us as a whole. It’s about us going out there getting better every day.”