Film study: Notre Dame RB commit Tony Jones Jr.
RB Tony Jones Jr., 6-0, 210; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy.
The numbers: Jones rushed 78 times for 514 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior season at IMG Academy. He added six catches for 149 yards and one touchdown. The Ascenders finished the season 9-0 after losing their preseason game.
The rankings: Rivals — Three stars, No. 21 running back. 247Sports — Three stars, No. 22 running back.
First impression: Jones is a hard-running back that makes defenders pay for trying to take him down. He works best between the tackles but can still make people miss. Jones brings a needed addition of power to Notre Dame’s backfield.
Strengths: Jones rarely hesitates as a runner. He’s decisive in the way he attacks the defense and starts to eat up yards. Jones’ low pad level allows him to take hits from defenders, keep his balance and stay on his hard-churning feet. Faced with contact, Jones often delivers a hit rather than receiving one. He’s hard to keep out of the end zone in goal line sets. In his limited opportunities, Jones has been able to be productive catching passes out of the backfield. Jones also excels at pass protection. You rarely see multiple clips of a running back blocking, but Jones throws in a few good ones at the end.
He did what? (:05) Jones starts right and quickly cuts left. That’s when the missed tackles begin. He avoids one defender to prevent being tackled at the line of scrimmage. As Jones starts to hit the edge of the defense, he stiff-arms a defender and heads closer to the sideline. Jones cuts behind a block, which allows a couple of defenders to catch up to him. He stiff-arms one and runs through the other diving at his feet. Then Jones finished the sprint to the end zone … (1:10) Jones uses a jump cut to avoid a short gain then spins away from a would-be tackler. All of a sudden, Jones scores another touchdown … (1:55) Jones catches a pitch to the right with little blocking to help him. He plants to get up field between one defender diving outside of him and another trying to tackle him around his shoulder. After that, Jones flattens the safety on his back. He keeps running until he’s finally pulled down from behind.
Competition level: There are few teams in the country with as much Division I talent as IMG. The Ascenders were ranked by MaxPreps as the No. 1 team in Florida and No. 9 in the country. Their standing is a reflection of that talent, but also a testament to the tough schedule they played. The 2015 slate included traditionally successful teams from Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and Maryland. Three of the top teams in New Jersey were defeated by IMG: Bergen Catholic (No. 2), St. Joseph Regional (No. 3) and Paramus Catholic (No. 8). Because IMG is not a member of the FHSAA, the team did not have a chance at a state championship. Jones had to compete at a high level in games and in practice.
Left to prove: Because Jones’ game is built on power, how he handles the bigger, stronger and faster college defenders will be worth watching. He’ll need to match that athleticism to continue to do the kinds of things he did in high school. Jones will also need to continue to improve on his work as a receiver out of the backfield. The biggest room for physical improvement in Jones’ game is speed. It can be the difference between a first down and a touchdown for a back that runs so well up the field. The workload for Jones was very small for a talented high school running back. Can he be relied on for 20 carries a game?