Name: Matt Jones
Position: Running Back
High School: Armwood (Seffner, FL)
Status: Verbally committed to Florida
Other Schools in Play: Georgia
Pre-Report Warning: I am a Matt Jones fan. A big one. I feel he should be ranked higher than he currently is by Rivals (No. 157 overall). Not because I am a fan though, but because I believe he is a top 100 talent. As with any recruit from my backyard (the Tampa, FL area), I may be a little biased toward them because of the coverage they get, but to me Jones is worth the hype and more. Just be glad he does not attend my high school. There is a player I have already mentioned who does and he is much, much higher up most lists. That particular player’s report may be quite the love fest.
Jones is one of those players that looks like he could play at the collegiate level today. When watching him on tape, you feel he has a better sense for the game than the other 21 players on the field. He has the size and frame to playing running back for a FBS team right now, and the talent to back it up. If everything goes according to plan, he could be one of those college players we say could be playing in the NFL at any given moment.
One of the things that stands out is the ease with which he plays. While defenders are coming full-speed at him or after him, he seems to be jogging around and by them. It is hard to tell if Jones ever hits full speed because he makes it look easy on most of his big runs. While smaller, speed backs make big cuts and hit the pedal to accelerate past everyone, Jones seems to just glide around the field. He is just quick enough to make defenders miss and just fast enough to take it to the house. It hardly looks like he is trying, which is a scary thought. Is he playing down to his opponents? What will he look like giving full effort? Or is he giving his all, but is just that good that it is simple to him? None of this is to imply he takes plays off; it is merely to point out that he looks extremely comfortable on the field navigating his way through defenses. It will be much harder for him in the SEC, but he is starting from a great point.
There is a point of worry though and that is his height. Bigger, upright running backs can be college and NFL stars. It has happened many times before and will happen many times in the future. But they are also more susceptible to hits that can cause injury. Running with your head up all the time and not lowering your center of gravity to take a blow can leave your body open to a lot of punishment and cause you to wear down a lot quicker than other backs. Jones does have a tendency to run this way. It helps him see the field better, which is a plus, but can leave him open to the big hit (or the Hit Stick for you video gamers out there). While it seems to be acceptable for him at the high school level, he will need to be more prepared to be tackled in the college game. That is not to say he should play in an apprehensive manner, but defenses will be bigger and faster and he must be ready to lower his head, bend his knees, and get his body ready for the punishment.
Where Jones does a good job in lowering his center of gravity is when he is the one initiating the hit. While he would obviously like to go around you, he seems to know when he will not be able to do so. Jones does have the ability to lower his shoulder and power though people. When he knows the hit is coming, he likes to turn himself into the hitter and take the tackler for a ride.
Blocking and pass catching are not necessarily a concern, but we see little of either in most of his clips. There are a few plays were he may run a route and catch a pass, but it does not appear to be done against the toughest of defenses. He has a great, leveling block at the beginning of the video, but it is hard to tell how he does in pass blocking. These will be things he will need to prove he can do very quickly upon his arrival at Florida.
For now, Jones is committed to the Gators and it is hard to imagine him going anywhere but Florida. He has a treasure chest of offers and others will continue to pursue him, but the feeling here is that he is as solid as solid can be roughly nine months before National Signing Day. Georgia is listed above because at one time Jones was very high on the Bulldogs. He committed to the Gators and their new offense so we should not have to worry too much, but expect Georgia to continue to push for the talented runner.