Nick Jones has cut his hair, lost weight and dedicated himself this summer to improving as a receiver at South Carolina.
The 5-foot-7 redshirt sophomore from Byrnes High is down to 175 pounds and is no longer sporting dreadlocks (or much hair at all). It’s all part of getting older and being more dedicated, Jones said.
He is working this summer in the outside receiver spot with D.L. Moore, K.J. Brent and Kwinton Smith. Jones and Brent were listed together behind Moore on the preseason depth chart.
Last year Jones started two games, had 12 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown.
What happened to your hair?
I’ve had hair since I was 7 years old. I decided to change it up, so I cut it off. I’ve had dreads since the sixth or seventh grade. I wanted a different look, a change. I’m going into my junior year. I’m getting older. I decided to switch it up.
Coach Spurrier joked last year that, from a distance, he had a hard time telling you from Ace Sanders. Was that a factor in your haircut?
(Laughing) That probably had a lot to do with it. A lot of people got us mixed up out there with our hair. I don’t think it will be a problem anymore.
Did you lose some weight, too?
I lost a lot of weight, about 10 to 12 pounds. It was my own decision. I wanted to get quicker and a lot faster, just to be able to play this game a lot better.
How did you lose it?
I was working out there on the field, in the weight room and on my own time running around in my neighborhood while at home in the summer. I was more committed to the game this summer and wanted to make myself a better player.
It’s your third year at South Carolina. What have you learned?
Nothing is easy. You have to work for everything. Nothing is given to you. You have to work hard, do every rep in the weight room, go hard on the field.
You came in with longtime teammate Marcus Lattimore. How has that been?
It’s been a long ride. We’ve been together since we were 7 years old. Being here with him, it’s crazy just us being out there on the field together, in college.
What were your summer workouts like?
I worked out with Dylan [Thompson] the most because we’re from the same area. When I was at home, I threw with Dylan at least two or three days out of the week. When I got here over the summer, me and Connor [Shaw] worked out a lot. We did a lot of 7-on-7s.
Is the offense ahead of the defense in practices so far?
We’re all just out here working. The defense has been flying around everywhere. The offense is getting better and better each day. We’re working hard.
What’s your comfort level with the outside receiver spot?
I like it a lot. I’m more comfortable at it than I was last year. In high school I played the slot. Adjusting to outside is not that big of a deal. I’m feeling real comfortable. I’m trying to learn every position just because I’ve been here going on three years now. I want to know the offense a lot better, so I’m trying to learn what everybody else is doing.
What do you do well as a receiver?
I think I run some good routes. I think I have great hands, and my work ethic. I work real hard. I’m working on my first steps, being more explosive off the ball and blocking.
How do you hope to contribute this season?
Any way I can. If it’s making a big block, catching a big pass, making yards after the catch, I’ll do anything for the team.
What have you seen from Kwinton Smith this summer?
He’s shown me a lot of great things. He’s going to be a great player here for us. He’s so long and so tall. I don’t know what his wingspan is but he has these long arms and he’ll catch the ball anywhere it is.
The team has a lot of wide receivers. Is that a good “problem” to have?
That is a good problem to have. We all can play and that’s a good thing. We actually try to help each other out a lot. This is a receiving group that cares about each other a lot. We want to see each other succeed, whatever is best for the team.
-- Compiled by Dwayne McLemore, GoGamecocks