Countdown UNC’s 10 Best Players: #9 Nazair Jones


In the days leading up to the start of college football season, Keeping It Heel will be counting down UNC Football’s 10 best players, continuing today with number 9, Naz Jones. Come back to see who else makes the top 10. 

#10 — Dez Lawrence

Nazair Jones is a 6’5, 295 lb redshirted sophomore from Roanoke Rapids, NC. Barring injury, he should be one of the rotational, if not starting, defensive tackles in new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik’s 4-3 defense. As a 4-3 defensive tackle there are three main things you need to be able to do:

Stuff the run up the middle

From a statistical standpoint it would look like Naz didn’t do a very good job here as North Carolina was dead last in the ACC against the run. But, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Unlike the NFL, where they can actually tell how much a team gave up in various directions or lines, the college experience isn’t as exact; in fact, individual defensive stats are often unofficial as they are not compiled by the NCAA.

So, if a collegiate defense gives up 5 yards per rush, there is no way of knowing if most of those yards came up the middle or from side to side. Little details like that go a long way in determining the effectiveness of various positional players particularly against the run.

One stat shows that Naz Jones did do a good job stuffing the run up the middle — Naz led the team in tackles for loss. This indicates he got into the backfield and hit a runner before he could make his move. Stuffing the run forces the offense to pass and this is important in helping with the next task…

Take up multiple blockers to allow the pass rushers to reach the QB

This task is hard to quantify in the players stats, but can be seen in players around him and by watching film. In a 4-3 defense, the pass rusher is usually the DE (as opposed to a 3-4 where the rusher is the OLB). Since Carolina ran a four man front last year (albeit in a different form), it is possible to see how Naz did in this area based on the effectiveness of the defensive end lined up next to him. That guy was Jessie Rogers, who just happened to lead the team in sacks. Naz did a good job pass rushing himself but also freeing up Jessie Rodgers to go get the QB as well.

Again, with stats being as they are it is hard to know how many of those sacks came with Naz on the field, but considering Jones’ overall effectiveness it seem clear that he was involved in assisting on several of those sacks. Though when all else fails it helps to do the final task…

Get your arms up and block passes 

Good defensive tackles are smart enough to know this, and Naz Jones is clearly a good defensive tackle. This is made evident not only in his 4 pass breakups but also in what was probably his play of the year, an interception versus Virginia:

As you see in the video above, Jones got his hands in the air and came away with a great interception. In that play you see not only his athleticism, but also his speed and strength as he just dragged multiple defenders with him down the field.

2015 North Carolina Football Season

So what should one expect from Naz Jones this upcoming season? The simplification of the playbook to go along with a more understandable base defense should lead to not just a more improved Jones but a better defense as well.

No matter if Jones starts or not, he will play with a consistent energy and motor that will allow him to be successful for the Tar Heels this season. I’m predicting a 10 tackle for loss, 5 sack, 2 Forced fumbles, and an interception this season for number 90 as long as he continues to play well under new coach Gene Chizik.