TALLAHASSEE -- Christian Jones was making the toughest decision of his football-playing life. Back in January, the Florida State linebacker was wondering if he was about to become a former Florida State linebacker when he sat down for a conversation with coach Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles' new defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt.
Should he stay for one more year? Or, with a new defense to learn, should he go on and leave for the NFL?
Part of the Winter Park native's internal debate about staying or going revolved around what his role in Pruitt's new scheme would be.
As he soon learned, and as the rest of the outside world may see in the next five months, his role will be active. Not only will Jones have a chance to cover and run sideline-to-sideline in his senior year just like he has throughout his career, but it appears he'll get the opportunity to blitz more than he ever has.
His goal this year: sack as many quarterbacks as possible.
"We've put in so many blitzes already and this is like our third practice," Jones said after Monday's spring practice session. "I'm like, 'Wow.'"
With Pruitt coming in earlier this offseason to replace former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, the Seminoles have been put in the unenviable position of having to learn a new system. Although coaches and players have both said most of the formations out of the multiple-look, base 4-3 defense have remained the same, the terminology so far has appeared quite difficult to grasp.
"The only thing that gets us is terminology," safety Karlos Williams said. "Pruitt is very sound in making sure we call under routes. If we're in coverage and we don't have to call man-to-man, you have to call 'under' if the route's going under you. You have to be very precise about what you're doing to make sure your guy knows he has to help you. He's very strict on that.
"You have to be very vocal in Pruitt's defense. You have to make sure you know what you're doing, when you're doing it and why you're doing it."
That's not to say players weren't doing that before under Mark Stoops, who left in December to become Kentucky's new head coach. It's just that there was a greater emphasis on being a true ballplayer and athlete in Stoops' scheme. That system was predicated on just using talent and ability to rush the quarterback with the defensive line, and to make plays downfield with the rest of the secondary.
Stoops' setup worked, too. The Seminoles had the nation's second-best overall defense. Who had the No. 1 unit?
Where is Pruitt coming from?
"The defense they run is more like an NFL type of defense," Jones said. "So it'll help us at the next level. No one's really complaining about it too much."
All spring, Fisher and select defensive players have remarked about how slight tweaks to the Seminoles' old defense will may it a more aggressive, blitz-based package. Those blitzes could come from any place on the field, too. Any of the linebackers will have more opportunities to rush the quarterback. Cornerbacks may even be getting in on the action, too. Particularly with the speedy and hard-hitting, physical senior Lamarcus Joyner moved from safety to corner, the Seminoles have good reason to put their boundary defensive backs in pass rush situations.
"We're watching film of Alabama and how they used to run it," middle linebacker Telvin Smith said. "Not knocking those guys, but I love the team and the guys we've got running this defense and I feel like we can put something together."
Part of what ultimately drew Jones back to FSU for another season was the fact that he'd have the opportunity to show he can be an even more versatile and athletic defender. After getting a third- or fourth-round NFL Draft projection from scouts and draft experts in January, he has been set on making his stock enter first-round territory after this coming season.
"I wanted to be able to show people what I can do," Jones said. "I feel that I'm a very versatile athlete and I didn't get to do much here because most of the time the defense was allowing me to cover or play my gaps.
"But they're more aggressive than I would say Stoops' defense because a lot of us linebackers are getting to blitz more and make a lot more plays."