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Notre Dame Football

Scouting the Roster: Tony Jones Jr.

June 7, 2017

Player name:  Tony Jones, Jr.  

Player position:  Running back

Years left of eligibility:  4

Projected rank on depth chart:  No. 2 running back

Player productivity so far: 0 carries, 0 yards,  0 TDs

What the player does best:  Jones, Jr, has very quick feet for his size and great vision.  For a young back, he’s able to find creases and squeeze through them effectively.  What I like most about him is his balance.  Arm tackles and people getting their hands on him rarely bring him down.  It usually takes a good, sound tackle to force him to the ground.  He’s a bigger back who runs with good forward lean, and he can move the pile forward.  For a big back, he moves very well laterally and has more ability to shift and turn in the hole than say Josh Adams does.  He has excellent hands out of the backfield and is an above average receiving threat when thrown the ball.  

What the player needs to work on:   Jones, Jr. just needs to to fine-tune some things.  He needs to work a bit on blitz pickup, like every young back does.  While he has good vision, at times he tends to attack before the hole develops.  He’s not the fastest guy.  He’ll likely get caught from behind by some of the faster players on the field, so working on top end speed and explosiveness would be ideal, but sometimes you’re just as fast as you’re ever going to be.  I doubt he ends up picking up an extra gear, but he can work some quickness and explosiveness.
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Productivity of former Irish players and the top players in the country at player’s position:  My assumption is that Tony Jones, Jr. will eventually be the No. 2 back in regards to carries and yards, etc., so I’m going to focus on some No. 2 backs from past ND years and other teams.  

2015  Josh Adams (ND):  3 starts, 117 carries, 835 yards, 7.1 ypc, 6 TDs

2016  Chris Evans (Mich):  88 carries, 614 yards, 7 ypc, 4 TDs

2016  Curtis Samuel (Ohio State):  97 carries, 771 yards, 7.9 ypc, 8 TDs

2016  Bryce Love (Stan) 112 carries, 779 yards, 7.0 ypc, 3 TD

2016  Justin Davis (USC) 110 carries, 607 yards, 5.5 ypc, 2 TDs

What can we hope for?  Josh Adams had one of the more productive years for ND as a No.2 back in recent memory.  Adams broke a lot of long runs in 2015, and I’m not sure Jones, Jr. has that kind of long speed to have a lot of 50-60-yard runs.  Most of the backs listed above are more quick/speed backs.  Justin Davis is probably more in line, game-wise, to what we can expect from Jones, Jr.  I am not sure the No. 2 back in ND’s offense will get 100 carries unless they can produce the kind of numbers Adams did in 2015.  Ideally you’d love to see the sophomore get 110 carries, 800 yards and 9-10 TDs.  He has a big body who can squeeze into tight places, so it would not surprise me to see him get a lot of carries in the red zone.  

What is a realistic expectation?  Again, I’m not sure Jones, Jr. will break a lot of long runs, so my guess is we’ll realistically see 90 carries, about 650 yards and 8 TDs.  That would be a very good year for a sophomore playing in his first action, especially considering three backs will likely play this year.  I do think he’s capable of more, and it would not surprise me if he ends up being the top back when all is said and done.  If he is, he’ll get even more carries and I expect bigger numbers, but he’ll have to show he’s a complete back, can do all the little things well, and also be very productive in his limited reps to steal the starting position.  Most would think he’s the No. 3 player right now, but it would not surprise me if he were the top back by the end of the season.  Having said that, I could see any of the three backs, Adams, Jones, Jr., or Dexter Williams being the top back.  All three are very talented players.  

What about the future?  I expect Jones, Jr. to be around for awhile, and also put up some big numbers.  He isn’t the best at any one thing, but he is very good at all things, which makes his hard to keep off the field.  I’d say out of all the backs, he has the most natural running back vision.  He seems to find holes the best.  That’s going to earn him a lot of carries.  I think he will continually get better and better.  He doesn’t have home run speed, but he does have an NFL body, so at some point he’ll likely have to make a decision if he might leave early for the NFL draft if produces well on the field.  

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