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December 14, 2010

Jones cleans up

Greg Jones became the nation's only repeat AP All-America first teamer from last season on Tuesday, and that means Jones and George Webster (1965-66) are the only players in MSU history to make the first team in consecutive seasons.

    It also means Jones is, once again, on every All-America team out there, and he'll depart East Lansing in the top handful or so of decorated players in program history.

    And how about when B.J. Cunningham departs East Lansing? The steady junior receiver is on pace to leave as MSU's all-time leading receiver -- by a long shot. He has 139, nine behind all-time leader Matt Trannon (bubble screens: 113; non-bubbles: 35) with a bowl game and senior season to go. It's certain he'll obliterate the record and it's possible he could reach 200 receptions. And it's not like MSU hasn't had a good receiver or two over the years.

    Also today, in case you haven't heard, Iowa has some issues. Nah, message boards don't have much influence on media.

    Here's the full MSU release on Jones:

    EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State senior linebacker Greg Jones, who helped lead the Spartans to a school-record 11 wins and a share of their first Big Ten Championship  in 20 years, has been named First-Team All-American by The Associated Press. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Jones is the only repeat selection from last year’s AP All-America First Team.
    He becomes only the second Spartan player ever to earn AP First-Team All-America honors in back-to-back seasons, joining roverback George Webster (1965-66). It also marks the third-straight year that a Spartan has earned a spot on the AP All-America First Team (running back Javon Ringer, 2009; Jones, 2009-10).
    Jones recently earned First-Team All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Walter Camp Football Foundation, American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), SI.com, CBSSports.com, Scout.com and Phil Steele.
    Jones leads the Spartans in tackles (98), forced fumbles (3) and quarterback hurries (6) and ranks second in tackles for loss (8 for 18 yards). He also ranks among the Big Ten leaders in forced fumbles (tied for second) and tackles (sixth at 8.2 per game). He anchors a Spartan defensive unit that ranks third in the Big Ten and No. 21 in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing defense, allowing 121.9 yards per game. Jones recently became MSU’s seventh three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and the first since punter Brandon Fields (2003, 2004 and 2006).
    A model of consistency, Jones has led the team in tackles in 30 of the last 38 games and is attempting to become only the second player in MSU history to lead the Spartans in tackles for four-straight seasons (linebacker Dan Bass, 1976-79).
    “This is a tremendous honor for Greg Jones,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “He made a statement and validated our football program when he elected to pass on the NFL Draft and return to Michigan State for his senior year. Greg was driven to become a champion. He believed in this program, and over the last four years, he has helped shape and change the culture here. This only reinforces the fact that dreams can come true.
    “We’re proud of his individual accomplishments, as Greg now joins the legendary George Webster as the only Spartans to earn AP First-Team All-America recognition in back-to-back seasons. This truly qualifies him as one of the greatest defensive players in MSU history, and he will wear a Big Ten Championship ring on his finger for the rest of his life to celebrate these accomplishments.
    “I personally want to thank his parents, Greg and Beverly Jones, for the sacrifices they have made and for being so supportive throughout this four-year process of building a championship program. There will always be a soft spot in the hearts of all Spartans for the Jones family.”
    In MSU’s 35-31 come-from-behind victory over Purdue, Jones registered eight tackles, a pass break-up and pressured Rob Henry into throwing an interception on a fourth-and-8 play from the Spartan 20-yard line with less than a minute remaining.
    In MSU’s 31-8 win over Minnesota, he recorded nine tackles, including 2.5 for losses (3 yards), as the Spartans limited the Golden Gophers to 267 total yards. The second-year captain also made nine stops each in back-to-back road games against Northwestern and Iowa.
    Jones, who posted a season-high 14 stops in a 26-6 Homecoming victory over Illinois, was named National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation as well as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He recorded double-figure tackles for the second time this season and for the 20th time his career. Jones also was credited with a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. Michigan State limited the Illini to 114 rushing yards – 103 yards below its season average. Trailing 6-3 at halftime, the Spartan defense shut out the Illini in the second half while forcing three turnovers (four takeaways in the game). It marked the first time since a 31-3 win over Indiana on Oct. 4, 2003, that MSU didn’t allow a touchdown in a Big Ten game.
    Jones posted five tackles in MSU’s 34-17 victory at No. 18 Michigan, as the Spartan defense held the Wolverines to a season-low 162 rushing yards.
    He recorded eight tackles, including a season-best three for losses, in No. 24 MSU’s 34-24 victory over No. 11 Wisconsin. The Spartan defense held Wisconsin to 165 rushing yards - nearly 93 yards below its season average. The Badgers entered the game ranked second in the Big Ten and No. 10 in the NCAA FBS in rushing, averaging 257.5 yards per game.
    Jones, who recorded two interceptions, four tackles and forced a fumble in MSU’s 45-7 victory over Northern Colorado, was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week. Jones recorded the first two interceptions of his career against the Bears, with both leading to MSU scores. His 34-yard return in the first quarter set up Edwin Baker’s 5-yard TD run, while his second-quarter pick set up Le’Veon Bell’s second TD run.
    He tallied nine tackles in MSU’s 34-31 overtime victory over Notre Dame, including a 6-yard sack. Jones recorded 11 tackles and forced a fumble in MSU’s 30-17 victory over Florida Atlantic at Ford Field.
    The Cincinnati, Ohio, native has started 45 of 51 career games, including 39 consecutive starting assignments (tied for team high with linebacker Eric Gordon). He has 457 career tackles, including 44.5 for losses (158 yards) and 16.5 sacks (93 yards). Jones ranks among the FBS active leaders in total tackles (third), tackles per game (eighth at 9.0) and tackles for loss (tied for seventh). He also ranks among MSU’s all-time leaders in tackles for loss (second), total tackles (third) and sacks (sixth).
    The seventh-ranked Spartans (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) will play No. 15 Alabama (9-3, 5-3 SEC) in the Capital One Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. The Capital One Bowl will be televised nationally by ESPN with kickoff set for 1 p.m. EST. Michigan State is making its fourth-straight postseason bowl appearance for the first time since 1987-90, matching the longest bowl streak in school history.

Spartans Well Represented On SI.com All-America Teams
    For the second year in a row, senior linebacker Greg Jones has earned SI.com First-Team All-America honors. Senior punter Aaron Bates, who leads the Big Ten and ranks No. 10 in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with his 45.2-yard average, has been selected Second-Team All-American by SI.com. In addition, fifth-year senior tight end Charlie Gantt, who ranks fourth on the team with 22 catches for 261 yards (11.9 avg.) and three touchdowns, has been named honorable mention All-American by SI.com.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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