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2019 Top 25 MAC Players: #2 Antonio Jones-Davis, LB, NIU

AJD has led one of the NCAA’s best defenses over the past few seasons and looks to do the same in 2019.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The penultimate player in our list comes from the same unit that two other Top-25 players have come from - the Northern Illinois Huskies defense. And just like the #4 player on our list, Kyle Pugh, he’s a ball-hawking linebacker.

Antonio Jones-Davis, a redshirt senior, was a three-year starter at Vero Beach High School in Vero Beach, Florida. In those three seasons, he bulldozed ball carriers on his way to 291 total tackles. In his senior season he had 117 stops, 10.5 TFL, and five picks.

He then traded in the warmth and sunshine for DeKalb wind and snow, where he redshirted in 2015. The next season he saw time in the final eight contests as a backup linebacker and on special teams. In his limited playing time, he was able to get eight tackles, 1.5 TFL, and break up a pass.

In 2017, he fared even better - seeing action in 12 games and finishing seventh on the team with 45 tackles and adding two tackles for a loss and a sack as well.

But last season he exploded, becoming one of the MAC’s best defensive players.

Jones-Davis amassed a team-high 130 tackles (fourth most in the MAC) which included 14.5 tackles for loss, six pass break ups, four sacks, two fumble recoveries, and QB hurry. His 76 solo tackles was tied for second in the MAC and 9th in the NCAA.

Last year, ADJ had 10 or more stops in six games and 15+ tackles in three games (CMU, Ball State, and Buffalo)! To opposing offenses, he was like Visa - “everywhere you want to be”. If you wanted to get any yardage, you had to go through him...and, most likely, you weren’t getting through.

In 2019, with Sutton Smith gone, Jones-Davis will likely be pushed into the spotlight of the Huskies defensive unit and become their leader. And there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down any this season. If anything, he might even be able to top his numbers from last year.

Between him, Kyle Pugh, and Jack Heflin the Huskies defense should be able to keep smothering their opponent’s offenses and, once again, lead the Huskies in their quest for another trip to Detroit.