'It's all authentic': Former KU football players explain what makes Emmett Jones popular

Kansas receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones coaches from the sideline in this file photo from the  2020 season. KU named Jones the football team's interim head coach on March 11, 2021.

Kansas receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones coaches from the sideline in this file photo from the 2020 season. KU named Jones the football team's interim head coach on March 11, 2021.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

When KU’s coaching situation was up in the air following Les Miles’ departure, some current and former Jayhawks knew exactly who they wanted to fill the void: wide receivers coach Emmett Jones.

Ever since he arrived in Lawrence in December 2018, Jones has been one of the most popular assistants in the eyes of the players, and that clearly played a role in KU naming him the interim head coach this past week.

Jayhawks posted their endorsements for Jones on social media before he was given the interim tag. And when KU made the announcement that he’d be in charge of the team for now, some important players were quick to voice their approval.

One of the top young players on the team, starting cornerback Karon Prunty, tweeted that he was ready to ride with Jones “until the wheels fall off.” And quarterback Jalon Daniels tweeted at Jones: “The Marathon Continues, Let’s Work!”

With spring practices scheduled to start on March 23, it won’t be long before more players share their thoughts on Jones in interviews. But in the meantime, the Journal-World reached out to a couple of former players to find out more about what makes the receivers coach and passing game coordinator so popular.

Former Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley said he was hoping Jones would be given the interim tag.

“He was great as far as energy (and) detail, and those receivers knew there was no BS-ing in his film room and on the practice field with him,” Stanley shared with the Journal-World. “I don’t really think I can think of a bad thing to say about him.”

Likewise, former KU offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji called KU’s choice a “good move.”

“I think the biggest thing that he brings — and I love coach Jones — is just that he’s a natural leader. Like, he’s going to get people fired up,” Adeniji told the Journal-World. “And he’s going to hold people accountable, which is so important. I think that’s going to be so huge.”

Stanley and Adeniji played their final college seasons in 2019, Jones’ first year with the program. And they saw how quickly the receivers coach got the team’s buy-in. Jones had a “super supportive” approach, Stanley said, but that didn’t mean his unit didn’t work hard.

“If you’re slacking or not being at your best, he’ll get on you, and not only that receiver room will know it, but everybody on the team will know it. He’s very disciplined,” Stanley said. “But at the same time, it’s all out of respect. He’s not by any means ripping into guys. At the end of the day, he wants what’s best for his (receivers), and now just the players in general.”

Adeniji, who now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, said the way Jones carries himself also earns the players’ respect. He said that Jones wasn’t really an “old-school” coach, “but he’s going to hold you accountable.”

“He’ll tell you some things, (and) you’ll be like, ‘Whoa, did he say that?’” Adeniji said. “But it’s all from a good place. That’s big. And it’s all authentic.”

“He’s not going to tell you something just to tell you something,” Adeniji added. “He’s not going to sugarcoat it. He’s going to keep it real with you — which you can’t say about a whole lot of coaches.”

Stanley said Jones had a “very technical” approach to coaching specific routes and techniques for the receivers. But it was his willingness to engage with players outside of his own unit that made him a good choice for the interim head coach role, Stanley said.

“On game days he was certainly the most involved receivers coach that I’ve ever had,” Stanley said. “He was always coming up to me, talking to me. Extremely interactive throughout the game. Always looking for things we could attack and ways we could be successful.”

Adeniji said Jones’ voice resonated with players, and he wasn’t the type of coach players would tune out. Jones is a Dallas native who has helped KU land several sought-after recruits from that area, and Adeniji said that the coach’s background helped him connect with people, too.

“I think a lot of players — because of the way he is and where he comes from — I think a lot of people will really feel him and relate to him,” Adeniji said.

Jones hasn’t yet given his first interview as KU’s interim head coach. But on Friday, he tweeted some photos from the meeting when the team learned he was taking over, adding: “What a blessing! LET’S GOOOO!!!! Rock Chalk.”