Former Raider Jones embracing new role in N.C. State secondary

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 11:54 PM

A lot has changed in one season for Hakim Jones.

The former Southern Vance standout was still one of the new kids on the block at N.C. State as a redshirt freshman in 2012, learning from defensive backfield veterans Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop while getting most of his action on special teams.

Fast forward to 2013 and Jones is one of the leaders of the secondary as a sophomore and appears to have a stranglehold on a starting spot at strong safety. He got the nod last week as N.C. State defeated Louisiana Tech 40-14 and is listed as the starter for Saturday’s game against Richmond.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Jones, a 2011 Southern grad. “Especially hanging around Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop last year. They told me I had to step up as soon as they left.”

Wolff was a fifth-round draft selection of the Philadelphia Eagles. Another member of that Wolfpack secondary, cornerback David Amerson, went in the second round to the Washington Redskins.

Of the 10 secondary members listed on N.C. State’s current depth chart, only two are seniors and four freshmen are in the mix.

Jones has embraced the challenge of becoming a leader after beating out classmate and Cardinal Gibbons alum Tim Buckley for the strong safety spot in the preseason.

“Hakim is a great competitor,” said safeties coach Clayton White. “He’s a guy who comes to work every single day. The kid will be injured and won’t tell you anything. He’s done a real good job as far as trying to be a leader.”

Jones had six tackles last week in Dave Doeren’s debut as head coach. The Wolfpack limited Louisiana Tech quarterback Scotty Young to 178 yards passing and no touchdowns.

Jones said Doeren and the new coaching staff brought new energy to the program.

“Everything is fast,” said Jones. “Everything is physical. It’s a lot more focus too. It’s mental, not just physical anymore.”

N.C. State finished 7-6 last season and third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division before head coach Tom O’Brien was let go. The Wolfpack were picked to finish third again this season.

“We’re going to show people that we can play ball,” said Jones. “Expectations are set high from last year. The guys that left have been telling us the bar is raised. We’re doing our best to meet those standards.”

White said Jones’ athletic explosiveness and strong tackling ability are his best attributes, adding that the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder has a chance now to “really set up his career.”

“He has a chance to go out there and prove he can be a three-year starter at a big-time university,” said White. “I think he’s done a real good job at trying to lock down that position and make sure it’s his for the next couple of years.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.