Throughout the spring, the Arizona Wildcats were missing one of their best safeties in Tellas Jones as he was out due to "personal issues". Some of those issues were a couple of misdemeanors he plead guilty to in Scottsdale in early March.
But as fall camp gets revved up, Jones is back with the team, and has come back a completely changed person.
"It was definitely a depressing time for me and I did a lot of soul-searching and praying on it," Jones explained on Friday. "It was good for me too because I learned a lot from it."
"I’ve changed a lot since then," he continued. "Football is very, very important to me. It’s important to my family, my friends, my teammates, and I owe it to them to do the right thing. I definitely don’t want to do anything to hurt those relationships."
"It feels wonderful to be back with my teammates and coaches. I feel the love and it’s just wonderful to be back."
Tellas is obviously a more mature human being now than last year, and he’ll need to embrace that as a redshirt senior in the secondary.
"I know with these freshmen coming in, they don’t fully know what’s expected of them," Jones explained. "So I try to do as much as I can like helping out the coaches with coaching, and making sure guys are doing the right thing and watching film. If you want to be good at (football), you gotta do things at home to be where you want to be and take it to the next level."
Jones says he’s trying to take on the same role that Jared Tevis, Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Will Parks have played since he’s been in college.
He also says he’s trying to help the coaches, but these have been the first few days he’s had under the new coaches.
However, Jones says it’s not an enormous change.
"They’re hard on us, but it’s a fun hard," he said of how the new coaches act during practice. "They get a lot out of you, which is what you want from a coaching staff."
Missing the spring, Jones wasn’t able to really learn the new defensive playbook, so that’s what his priority is in the opening weeks of fall practice.
"I’ve been in my playbook a lot and I’ve been meeting with my coach, so it’s been pretty easy getting back to the field as far as the plays," he explained about getting back to football. "But getting back in shape is the hardest thing about it."
"Yeah, definitely," Jones said if he’s felt rusty in the early going. "Some rare amount of people can just be good at (football), but sometimes you just gotta work on your craft."
He’s excited about the new look Arizona’s defense will have this year though.
"The scheme is fun," said Jones. "It allows you to do different things and puts you in position to make plays, so that’s what I like about it. My position will be to cover more and be more in the box. It gives DBs a lot more opportunity to make plays."
Will Tellas be able to make plays right away this season? Time will tell as there are still potential disciplinary issues to be worked out between him and the coaching staff. But once he gets on the field, Rich Rodriguez expects big things from him.
"He’s an explosive player," Rodriguez said. "He’s a guy that could lead us or be one of the leaders in tackles. He’s got a lot to learn because it’s all new to him, but he’s a competitive guy."
"We’re expecting big things out of Tellas."