Graphic courtesy of Penn State Athletics
Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class who has signed their letter of intent. This is a look at receiver T.J. Jones, who is ranked as the No. 48 receiver prospect in the nation by ESPN.
School: Columbia HS (Fla.)
Projected position: Wide receiver
Ranking: Four stars by ESPN; Three stars by Rivals.com and 247sports
Other offers: Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Marshall, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee, Temple, Texas A&M, Troy, UCF, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest.
Enrolling: Summer semester
Strengths: Jones plays like a bigger receiver than he is. He has good height at 6-foot-1, but he runs after the catch like a 200-pounder. … Very physical with the ball in his hands. Not afraid to lower his shoulder and get the extra yard or 2. Not a lot of video out there of him choosing to run out of bounds rather than seek out the contact. … Not afraid over the middle. … Good, strong hands that enable him to take an initial hit, protect the call and still make a push to get physical. … Jones has a style that is reminiscent of the way a good tight end would play. But, every once in a while, he shows quick enough feet to be able to get around a defender in a tight space.
The questions: Jones was a really good prospect as a junior who was expected to take a big jump as a senior. And, he just didn’t. … He doesn’t always show an extra burst of speed in the open field, and while he shows flashes of quickness in the box, they’re just flashes. … He’ll need to improve as a route runner at the next level, as he doesn’t show every route consistently on film. … He had a ton of big offers, but many of those programs lost interest over time. The big question with Jones is where his potential can get him, and at the end of the day, can he get to another level?
Projection: Jones is interesting, because he shows you a little bit of everything. But mostly, he looks like a possession receiver. If Penn State can get him to that next level, it might have a real steal on its hands. If not, there’s no reason Jones can’t give Penn State the same kind of presence that Juwan Johnson conceivably could have: A toughness over the middle, and a chain mover. One thing is for sure, the competition isn’t going to scare Jones, and with as physics as he is, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him carve out a role by 2021.