STARKVILLE — Chris Jones still doesn’t like to be called a defensive tackle.
Mississippi State University’s highly coveted, five-star recruit from Houston, who was the second-ranked prospect in the country according to 247Sports.com, drew his first start of his career Saturday in a 51-7 victory against Alcorn State University, but doesn’t want the crowd of 55,085 at Davis Wade Stadium that watched the game to be fooled. He still sees himself as a defensive end with the Bulldogs.
“I’m not a defensive tackle,” Jones said. “I’m a defensive end that is playing defensive tackle for the moment. Hopefully my label and position is going to change.”
In Jones’ world, one that includes going from an unknown prospect to the most highly recruited prospect in the state of Mississippi last winter, his current position is the definition of temporary.
“I keep telling coach (Dan) Mullen that the defensive end is still in me now,” Jones said. “We’re trying to balance that out.”
Defensive line coach David Turner told Jones on Friday night before the team movie that he would start at defensive tackle in place of P.J. Jones, who was sat for unknown reasons not related to a injury. The news was designed to test Jones’ maturity.
“You know how you want to feel so cool about it but on the inside you’re just jumping up and down?” Jones said. “I had to play it cool and say, ‘That’s cool coach Turner. Thanks.’ ”
One of the things Jones said the coaches have asked him to do is to shed 20 pounds to fit the body type of a defensive end.
“I’m at 290 (pounds) and I guess they want me at 270, but you fellas understand, it’s kind of hard for a big dude to do,” Jones said. “We’re going to try to work something out.”
Jones had two tackles and solidified the middle of coordinator Geoff Collins’ defense.
“I got too high with my pad level today, but everything I’m doing wrong is fixable,” Jones said.
Jones’ ability to adapt to playing defensive tackle might be his biggest issue.
“The main difference between the two positions is at tackle you got that 300-pound monster going boom right in your grill and he’s got help,” Jones said. “At defensive end, you’re on a one-on-one island with that tackle. I like that island.”
Malone out for season with broken foot
MSU sophomore right guard Justin Malone will miss the remainder of the season after breaking his left foot in the season-opening loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State University.
The injury, which is referred to as a Lisfranc injury, is when the middle bones of the foot are severely displaced.
Malone, who was expected to become a starter beside All-Southeastern Conference selection Gabe Jackson and junior Dillon Day at center, suffered the injury in the fourth quarter.
Former walk-on Ben Beckwith drew his first career start in place of Malone. Junior Damien Robinson was listed as Beckwith’s backup and the backup at left tackle.
“In a game like this, a lot of guys got opportunities to go earn playing time this week and so we’ll go look at the film and determine who graded out well,” Mullen said.
Last season, Malone swapped playing time with Tobias Smith. He recorded a season-high eight pancake blocks at Troy University in his first career start. He only played football for two seasons at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, but he was listed as a three-star recruit by all of the recruiting services.
Seven new starters Saturday for Mississippi State
MSU had seven new starters against ASU. Three changes to the starting lineup were predetermined due to announced injuries. Senior quarterback Tyler Russell wasn’t active after suffering a concussion against OSU. Dak Prescott received his first career start since arriving at MSU three years ago.
Senior tailback LaDarius Perkins wasn’t on the active roster and was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Josh Robinson. Perkins had a protective boot on his left foot throughout the week of despite not being mentioned Monday on Mullen’s injury report to the media.
Highly touted five-star freshman Chris Jones received his first career start at defensive tackle in his second career collegiate game in place of P.J. Jones.
Jay Hughes is out for the season and was replaced by sophomore Kendrick Market at strong safety. Justin Malone wasn’t on the active roster due to a left foot injury he suffered against OSU. He was replaced by junior Ben Beckwith at right guard.
MSU senior free safety Nickoe Whitley had his streak of 31 straight games in the starting lineup broken after he didn’t play for an undisclosed reason that wasn’t related to a injury. Sophomore Dee Arrington received his first career start in place of Whitley.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.