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Football Coaching Staff
Derek Jones
Associate Head Coach/Defensive Backs
Coach Info:
Position: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Backs
Alma Mater: Ole Miss '96
Phone: (919) 684-2635

Derek Jones joined the Blue Devil coaching staff in January of 2008 and coaches the defensive backs.  Jones was awarded additional responsibilities as Duke's Associate Head Coach following the 2017 campaign.

Jones did some of his best work in 2018 as All-America cornerback Mark Gilbert was lost for the season just five quarters into the campaign. Jones shifted sophomore Michael Carter II from safety to cornerback, only to see Carter II suffer an injury that kept him out for a pair of games. Despite all the injuries, Jones’ defensive back unit ranked fourth in the ACC in passing yards allowed per game (199.4) and fifth in the league in pass efficiency defense (118.40). The Blue Devils finished with consecutive years of holding opponents to 201 or fewer passing yards a contest for the first time since 2004-05.

The 2018 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl victory against Temple was a showcase of Jones’ mentorship in the secondary. Of the five secondary starters in the bowl tilt, four were underclassmen. Redshirt freshman Josh Blackwell turned in his finest performance in the game, setting the Duke bowl record with four pass breakups to go along with five tackles as the Blue Devils captured their third consecutive bowl victory.  

In 2017, Jones had Gilbert make an immediate impact in his first season in the starting lineup by leading the ACC and ranking tied for third nationally in passes defended per game (1.62) while his 21 total passes defended established a Duke single-season record.  A first team All-ACC honoree, Gilbert was the top vote-getter among cornerbacks in the all-league balloting after producing 35 tackles, six interceptions and 15 pass breakups.  

Opposite Gilbert at cornerback was redshirt senior captain Bryon Fields Jr., who concluded an outstanding career with season totals of 39 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass breakups.  Fields Jr. departed the Blue Devil program with a school record four interception returns for touchdowns including two during his final campaign.

Duke’s defense in 2017 was one of the best in the ACC, ranking among the league’s leaders in both scoring defense (3rd) and total defense (4th).  The Blue Devils allowed just 20.23 points per game, marking the program’s lowest total since 1977, and surrendered more than 24 points just twice.  The Blue Devils limited their final five opponents (Virginia Tech, Army West Point, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Northern Illinois) to 13 total points after intermission and zero in the fourth quarter.  In addition, Duke set or matched Quick Lane Bowl records for fewest points allowed (14) and fewest rushing yards surrendered (65) as the Blue Devils earned a 36-14 triumph over Northern Illinois.

In 2016, Jones enjoyed two veteran starters at cornerback for the majority of the season with Breon Borders and Fields Jr.  Borders earned All-ACC honors after leading Duke with 11 pass breakups and adding two interceptions, 27 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one caused fumble and one fumble recovery.  Borders also led the league and finished 16th nationally in passes broken up per game (1.30).  Following the season, Borders signed an NFL free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders. 

Fields Jr. returned to the field after missing the 2015 season due to injury and posted 30 tackles, six pass breakups, two interceptions and two caused fumbles.  Borders missed the final three games of the season with a hip injury and Jones prepared Gilbert, then a true freshman, to start in Borders’ place.  During those three games, Gilbert posted 15 tackles to go along with one pass breakup and one tackle for lost yardage.

Duke’s kickoff return unit again found success in 2016, averaging 24.55 yards a runback despite three-time All-America kickoff returner DeVon Edwards suffering a career-ending injury during the fourth game of the season.  Shaun Wilson filled in for Edwards and averaged 24.97 yards per return, the fourth-best mark in the league.  Duke’s kickoff return defense also ranked fourth in the league (18.67).  

In 2015, a season-ending injury for Fields Jr. in August challenged Duke’s cornerback group from the outset and Borders led the youthful unit with 56 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and a team-high three interceptions while ranking ninth in the ACC in total passes defended per game (0.92).  On the special teams front, Duke continued success as kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday both garnered All-ACC honors for the fourth time.  In addition, Edwards established school single-season (3) and career (6) records for kickoff returns for touchdowns while Wilson provided the Blue Devils with a spark by returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl victory over Indiana. 

In 2014, Jones helped cornerbacks Borders and Fields Jr. through their first year as starters. Borders led the Blue Devils with three interceptions and was second on the squad with nine passes defended. He added 39 tackles and one fumble recovery. An Academic All-ACC pick, Fields Jr. finished tied for fourth on the team with 70 tackles and tallied 2.5 tackles for lost yardage to go along with an interception return for a touchdown. 

Duke enjoyed plenty of success on the special teams scene in 2014 with punt returner Jamison Crowder, Edwards, Martin and Monday each earning All-America honors.  Crowder went on to be a fourth round selection by the Washington Redskins in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Jones was instrumental in the development of Ross Cockrell, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.  A two-year team captain, Cockrell started 49 games at Duke and finished with 233 tackles, 12 interceptions and 42 pass breakups while twice earning first team All-ACC honors in 2012 and 2013.  The Waxhaw, N.C., native departed the Blue Devil program as the school’s all-time leader in total passes defended (54) and became the first defensive back to be drafted since 1996.

Also in 2013, Borders established the Duke single-season record for interceptions by a freshman (4) and set an ACC Championship Game record for interceptions with two against eventual national champion Florida State. 

In 2012, Cockrell earned first team All-ACC and honorable mention All-America honors after posting 71 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, five interceptions and 13 pass breakups.  The five interceptions were tops in the conference.  In addition to Cockrell, safety Walt Canty also garnered All-ACC accolades in 2012, receiving a second team citation.  Canty paced the Blue Devils in tackles with 109 while closing an outstanding 49-game career that included 262 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, 10 pass breakups and five caused fumbles.

In 2011, safety Matt Daniels — who signed with the NFL’s St. Louis Rams in 2012 — was a first team All-ACC and second team All-America pick after registering 126 tackles.

Cockrell earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2010 after leading the Blue Devils with three interceptions while ranking second among ACC rookies in total passes defended (10).  Also, five different defensive backs registered interceptions for the Blue Devils and Daniels ranked among the conference leaders in both tackles per game (6th; 7.8) and caused fumbles per game (2nd; 0.25).

One of Jones’ pupils, Leon Wright, concluded an outstanding career in 2009 by earning honorable mention All-ACC honors after totaling 58 tackles, five interceptions and eight pass breakups.  Wright was instrumental in Duke’s 35-19 come-from-behind win at Army West Point in week two of the 2009 season, returning two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s New York Giants in the spring of 2010.

Another cornerback under Jones’ guidance, Chris Rwabukamba, was a fourth round draft selection of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 2010 Canadian Football League Draft.

In 2008, the Blue Devil defense allowed 23.4 points per game – the lowest total in 20 seasons – and held three opponents to less than 10 points for the first time since 1976. 

Prior to joining the Duke staff, Jones helped Memphis to a 7-6 overall record in 2007 – a five-game improvement in the win column from the previous year – with a berth in the New Orleans Bowl. One of Jones’ pupils, LaKeitharun Ford, was named co-MVP of the squad after posting 45 tackles and two interceptions.

In 2006, Jones coached the cornerbacks at Tulsa as the Golden Hurricane ranked first in Conference USA in pass defense and total defense. Tulsa posted an 8-5 ledger that season and participated in the Armed Forces Bowl. Cornerback Nick Graham earned all-conference honors and later played with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Prior to joining Tulsa, Jones worked one season (2005) as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee State University as the Blue Raiders ranked 30th nationally against the pass.

Jones received his start in coaching at Ole Miss in 1998 as a graduate assistant for football operations and recruiting. He then served as a defensive graduate assistant coach in 1999 with the Rebels under current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.

From 2000-04, Jones served as cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Murray State, mentoring seven all-conference selections in five years. The Racers enjoyed defensive success during Jones’ tenure, leading the Ohio Valley Conference in pass defense in 2003 and, one year later, ranking 11th nationally in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense.

A native of Woodruff, S.C., Jones lettered four seasons as a cornerback at Ole Miss from 1993-96. He was a two-time second team All-SEC pick, captained the Rebels in 1996 and was selected to play in the prestigious Blue-Gray All-Star Classic following his senior campaign. He also earned All-SEC accolades in track and field as a sprinter.

Jones received a degree in public administration from Ole Miss in 1996, and then played professionally with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and Nashville Kats of the Arena Football League. He and his wife, Naketa, have two daughters, Madison and Brooklyn Savannah. Jones has another daughter, Darquisha.