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Pearl River adds ‘explosive’ D1 linebacker

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River football program has added another Division 1 transfer in the form of former South Alabama linebacker Zach Jones, coach Seth Smith announced Wednesday.

Jones previously starred for Smith at East Central High School in Hurley.

“Anytime you can add a D1 transfer you feel like he’s someone who can come in and make an immediate impact,” Smith said. “On a deeper level, having coached him in high school I know him and his family well. Bringing in an athlete of his caliber, we’re just extremely excited.”

Smith sees Jones as someone who can step in and immediately fill a void on the defense.

“He’s 6-3, 230 pounds and extremely explosive,” Smith said. “The biggest thing is departing All-American Noah Mitchell was phenomenal and an anchor of the defense. Losing him, you take a hit.

“We hope bringing in a guy like Zach with instant credibility can help fill that hole immediately.”

Jones originally signed with South Alabama in 2020. Considered a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com, Jones originally signed with South Alabama in 2020 over interest from Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. 

Jones did not see playing time for the Jags this year and following the coaching change at USA, the linebacker opted to reunite with his former coach.

“I have always kind of thought about it because that’s my head coach. Ever since he left East Central, really. Some things didn’t work out at South Al. I was worried about playing time and things like that, so I figured I could go play for my head coach and see what happens after that. That’s what really drove me to do it,” he said. “I was going to wait to make a decision, but I thought about it and I don’t want to have the same year as I did my first year at South Alabama. 

“Coach Smith says I’ll play immediately and make an impact so this is a better opportunity and see what happens after that.”

Like many of his former Hornet teammates, Jones said he has a special bond with Smith which made his decision to transfer an easy choice.

“I think of him as a best friend sometimes. Coach Smith is an awesome guy,” Jones said. “He taught me a lot about life. A lot of it was football, but he always made a point to show football is about life and how you can overcome adversity to become a better person.”

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Jones was a big-time playmaker for ECHS, lettering three years in football and baseball. He totaled 198 total tackles as a junior and senior with 33 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, four interceptions, four recovered fumbles and three forced fumbles.

As a senior, Jones racked up 109 tackles with 15 TFLs, three sacks, one interception, three recovered fumbles and two forced fumbles. Following the season he was named to the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game.

As a junior on East Central’s 12-1 team, Jones registered 89 tackles with a career-high 18 TFLs and three interceptions. He also recorded two sacks, recovered a fumble and forced another. Jones was also a member of the Hornets’ 13-1 team in 2017 that claimed the MHSAA Class 4A South State Championship.

Jones is the second D1 transfer to join PRCC’s roster this offseason. Smith announced in December former Gatorade Player of the Year and USA running back Tony Brown is also transferring to Pearl River.

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