The recruiting process showed Luke Jones the unstable nature of a college football coaching staff.
The 6-foot-5, 289-pound offensive lineman from Little Rock (Ark.) Pulaski Academy had been verbally committed to Arkansas for four months when head coach Bret Bielema was fired by the Razorbacks in November.
Fortunately for Jones, he had already been evaluating Notre Dame as another option. The three-star recruit had previously made an unofficial visit to see the Irish beat USC in October. Then he returned in December for an official visit. On Dec. 27, a day after his 18th birthday, Jones gave head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand his verbal commitment.
Two weeks later, news broke that Hiestand would be leaving the Irish to rejoin the coaching staff of the Chicago Bears. Yet the latest change didn’t cause Jones much distress.
“I was a little bit nervous, but I’ve been through this process meeting all the new coaches,” Jones said. “I knew it was going to be fine. Notre Dame is going to bring in the best of the best. I wasn’t really worried that much.”
Jeff Quinn wanted to eliminate any questions Jones might have had. A day after he was named as Hiestand’s replacement at Notre Dame, Quinn flew down to Arkansas with Kelly to visit Jones and his family.
“They were asking the very things that I felt good about,” Quinn said. “That made all the difference in the world. I was very eager to keep that commitment.”
Quinn’s answers indicated the transition for Notre Dame’s offensive line should be smooth.
“He just talked about how he’s going to keep the scheme pretty much the same with the calls and stuff like that so the offensive line up there doesn’t have to relearn them,” Jones said. “They can go straight into getting better and working on the techniques that coach Hiestand’s been doing.”
Jones has played primarily at offensive tackle in his four years at Pulaski Academy, which included four state championships, but he was told to be ready to play any position when he arrived at Notre Dame.
Quinn indicated on National Signing Day that he prefers to play his best five offensive linemen rather than pigeon-hole players into specific positions. It’s another philosophy he shares with Hiestand.
“Luke gives us great versatility,” Kelly said, “can play the guard position, can play center. We were looking for that — in particular an inside guy that had that versatility."
Playing on the interior of the offensive line requires a certain amount of toughness. Quinn said he saw that in Jones. Then he learned Jones had survived a venomous snake bite.
When Jones was 13 years old, he was bitten by a copperhead snake. Fortunately for Jones, the venom from a copperhead is rarely fatal.
“You’re one tough sun of a gun,” Quinn said he told Jones. “I’m glad we’re signing you to Notre Dame.”
The feeling was mutual. Jones signed with Notre Dame on Wednesday to seal his future with the Irish.
“He’s an outstanding guy and an even better coach,” Jones said of Quinn. “I really liked getting to meet with him. I’m really impressed by him. I can’t wait to get up there and start working with him.”
Below are senior highlights of Jones via Hudl.