Derek Jones joined the Blue Devil coaching staff in January of 2008 and coaches the cornerbacks. Jones also assists Jim Bridge with Duke’s special teams units.
In 2015, a season-ending injury for returning starter Bryon Fields in August challenged Duke’s cornerback group from the outset and Breon 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 in 2015 as both kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday garnered All-ACC honors for the fourth consecutive season. In addition, DeVon Edwards established school single-season (3) and career (6) records for kickoff returns for touchdowns while Shaun 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 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 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 by 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 the spring 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 last season, and Daniels ranked among the conference leaders in both tackles per game (6th; 7.8) and caused fumbles (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 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 Hurricane defense 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 is a current member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Prior to joining the Tulsa staff, Jones worked one season (2005) as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee State University where 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 nationally 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.