EAST LANSING - Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones announced today that he is returning for his senior year in 2010.
"I'm very, very excited coming back here," Jones said at a 1 p.m. press conference at Spartan Stadium. "I'm coming back. I'm coming back mostly for my teammates and the coaching staff. I love it here. And also to work toward my diploma. And the coaching staff. I love it here. And also to work toward my diploma."
Jones, a consensus All-America, led the Big Ten in tackles as a junior in 2009. Media named him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
"Greg making this announcement is a huge thing for our football program," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "To have a young man back who is first-team consensus All-America, and two-time All-Big Ten, provides a nucleus for our entire football team."
Although Jones had a standout season in 2009, the Spartans finished 6-7 after losing to Texas Tech in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2. The season was a disappointment after a 9-4 season in 2008.
"In '08, we were right there," Jones said. "I feel like with thise team we can compete for a Big Ten championship. That did affect the decision a little bit. Not like a whole bunch, but it was there.
"I always felt like I was leaning toward coming back. I just wanted to make an educated decision about things and talk to as many people as I could, and talk about it with my family too. We talked a lot. We finally came to a decision."
Dantonio helped Jones with the fact-finding mission.
"I talked to four GMs on NFL teams," Dantonio said. "All of them said he is a definite NFL player."
But no one guaranteed that he would be a first-round NFL Draft choice. Jones said in December if he wasn't assured of being a first-rounder, he would come back to finish his degree.
Jones is majoring in media arts.
"He is about 15 hours within getting his degree," Dantonio said, "as opposed to leaving with 15 hours to go. That's a huge difference. He made a wise choice. I want what's best for our team, our players There are so many areas in which you can grow by coming back."
Jones said a promise to his mother to finish his degree was also a factor.
"Me and my mom, we talk a lot about sports," Jones said. "But ever since I was younger, she was more excited when I did good in class. Getting that degree would mean a lot."
Jones is also eager to improve on the field, especially in pass defense.
"In the passing game, I don't feel like I was the factor I needed to be," Jones said. "I want to try to make my teammates better as much as I can."
Said Dantonio: "Greg is extremely goal oriented as a person. We can meet a lot of goals with Greg Jones as our mainstay, on defense in particular. I'm very, very excited about 2010. We had a team meeting on Monday morning. We had a lot of smiles, ready to get back to work."
Jones' press conference, as well as Dantonio's 2010 preview press conference, was broadcast to a state-wide radio audience via the Spartan Sports Network, an unprecedented move for the MSU athletic department.
However, the press conference quickly turned into a question-and-answer session about the team's off-field problems, stemming from the alleged assaults at Rather Hall in late November. Several players are slated to have pretrial hearings in East Lansing on Thursday.
"We'll allow the legal process to take it's course," Dantonio said.
Press Conference Notes
Dantonio said the players who were suspended due to the Rather Hall incident were welcomed back into team dynamic this week. They were in the room for Monday's team meeting, the first team meeting of 2010.
However, Dantonio confirmed that three players who were suspended have decided to transfer: running back Ashton Leggett, defensive end Jamiihr Williams and linebacker Brynden Trawick.
Dantonio indicated that defensive tackle Ishmyl Johnson is no longer on the team.
Dantonio said Cameron Jude is still with the team. Jude did not travel with the team to the Valero Alamo Bowl for internal reasons not related to the Rather Hall incident.
"I'm not going to alienate our players, just as you would with your son or daughter," Dantonio said in reference to the reinstatement of formerly suspended players. "You are going to be there for them. We brought them back into the team chemistry right now, at least to sit in the team meeting room for our initial meeting back. They were welcomed to be in there.
"They have been outside of football for the last six or seven weeks. At this time, we are going to welcome them back into that environment. They are on the team right now."
Those reinstated players include offensive lineman J'Michael Deane, wide receiver Fred Smith, wide receiver Mark Dell, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, cornerback Chris L. Rucker.
Wide receivers Myles White, Chris D. Rucker and Donald Spencer were suspended for the Alamo Bowl but do not face charges in relation to the Rather Hall incident. They are believed to be reinstated as well.
Dantonio said MSU "has its quarterback situation" sorted out, meaning that Kirk Cousins is the unquestioned No. 1 heading into the 2010 season. Junior-to-be Keith Nichol played wide receiver at the Alamo Bowl. Dantonio indicated that Nichol will likely stay at WR.
"I think Keith Nichol has found a place where he can add value to this football team," Dantonio said. "No one wants to have a quarterback controversy. I think he can be a tremendous football player for us and do a variety of things for us."
VIDEO: Greg Jones on Decision to Stay
If you were unable to watch the video embedded in the text above, click the link below to watch Dantonio and Jones on the later's decision to return for his senior year.