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Biletnikoff watch list includes TJ Jones

Jul 17, 2012, 8:25 PM EDT


It’s tough to get too worked up about a “watch list.” The closest thing to the Little League participation trophy in college football, it’s an annual roll call of college football’s best names, a small pat on the back during the doldrums of summer that serve as talking points until preseason all-conference teams are announced and teams actually — you know, put the pads on and start practicing.

Yet as the Biletnikoff Award released its annual short list, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of Irish wide receiver TJ Jones. After a sophomore season that saw Jones catch 38 balls for only 366 yards and three touchdowns, not even the most optimistic Irish fan saw Jones as someone worthy of a Top 50 wide receiver mention in college football.

Yet Jones represents the best returning wide receiver on the Irish roster, even if he’s been largely forgotten in the Irish’s search for a go-to receiver after the departure of Michael Floyd. Ready to move past a sophomore season that saw Jones deal with the sudden loss of his father,  the Biletnikoff’s optimism that Jones, entering his third season in the starting lineup, will be ready for a breakthrough, would be a huge relief for new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and Mike Denbrock, now working with the outside wide receivers in 2012.

Putting the 2011 season in the rearview mirror is probably the best thing for Jones and the Irish offense. After an emotional pregame ceremony honored Andre Jones and other members lost in the Irish football family, Jones opened the season on the wrong side of Brian Kelly’s purple-faced tirade, drawing the ire of the head coach when he let a Tommy Rees pass bounce off his helmet deep in the red zone during the Irish’s crushing 23-20 loss to South Florida. It’s hard to imagine that Jones’ afternoon against the Bulls, where he caught six passes for 58 yards, would be his most prolific output of the season, especially with defenses needing to pay attention to both Floyd and tight end Tyler Eifert. Yet Jones was largely a non-factor after a promising rookie campaign, making plenty of Irish fans wonder if Jones had reached his ceiling.

Still, there’s every reason to think that one wide receiver will emerge as an explosive option in Brian Kelly’s offense, if only because that seems to happen every season for Kelly. In his first two years at Notre Dame, that was Floyd. At Cincinnati, it was Mardy Gilyard, while at Central Michigan a mostly anonymous cast of characters still only failed to produce an 800+ yard season during Kelly’s first season with the Chippewas.

As the Irish offense looks for answers on both sides of the catch and throw, with names like Everett Golson, Davaris Daniels, Gunner Kiel, and Davonte Neal being bandied about, perhaps the answer has been under our nose all along.

(The below video was produced by Robby Toma and Lo Wood for their Film & Television class.)




  1. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 17, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    I’m with smurphdoggie and the Biletnikoff Watch List Committee……our receivers are poised for a breakout season, especially TJ. Go Irish!

    • smurphdoggy29 - Jul 18, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      I continue to pound the pavement and say our pass catchers will blow it up, and I firmly believe this so much I look forward to the nightly coverage on all the sports review shows about the “surprise” emergence of an aerial game in South Bend !

      No fair on the video, stuff like that always makes me tear up ! TJ is a fine young man and a person his family and especially his Dad are tremendously proud of ! I am rooting very hard that TJ is the standard bearer of the breakout !

      GO Irish
      Beat Navy !

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 17, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    Now if we can only figure out who will be throwing the passes.

  3. dickasman - Jul 18, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    The kid def. has some talent but he has regressed this past season, mainly with the butterfingers but i believe its more mental and rightfully so. But life and champions go on… I hope he can put last season behind him and continue to build from the freshman season he had.

  4. dickasman - Jul 18, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    Jersey, jerry Garcia wrote a song about it. And I’m waiting for a, and I’m waiting for a miraaaaaaacle! The beauty of a new college football season, anything can happen.

    • nudeman - Jul 18, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      Correct … that was the Dead, but it is a Bob Weir song. Not Jerry.
      “I need a woman about twice my height
      Statue-esque, raven-tressed, a Goddess of the night”

      • bernhtp - Jul 18, 2012 at 11:34 PM

        I was going to correct Dick on the songwriter, but he got mad at me last time I corrected him on a song.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 18, 2012 at 2:00 PM

      We need a miracle…….every game.

  5. godcountrynotredame - Jul 18, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    Reblogged this on God Country Notre Dame.

    • bogtrottin - Jul 18, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      dude, seriously, can we kill the reblogging thing? interesting/insightful comment here = bueno. reblogging comment = no bueno.

  6. cpfirish - Jul 18, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Wait!! We need a QB who can get our wideouts the ball first? Right? EG, AH? Or the one and only TR…

  7. smurphdoggy29 - Jul 18, 2012 at 11:55 PM

    Yes, we do need a QB to get the ball to the pass catchers.

    TR was passed by EG & AH before the dust settled versus FSU

    Whomever takes the majority of the snaps vs. Navy will be the one best designed to implement that gameplan, then against Michigan et al. In my opinion, and opinions are like…well you get the idea, the Coaches have now designed their gameplan(s) with the intent to implement them via whomever is best suited for THAT game.

    EG & AH will reap the benefits of a pass catching plethora of people mushrooming in potential and before our eyes the offensive out put will amaze.

    GO Irish !
    Brazen Head ! August 31st be there ! Somebody will be footing the tab !

    • nudeman - Jul 19, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      “TR was passed by EG & AH before the dust settled versus FSU”

      In who’s mind? Mine and yours and 99% of ND Nation, certainly
      BK? Not so sure
      If the game was today he’d run Rees out there. Guaranteed
      If he starts Rees in Dublin, then Purdue, etc he is “on the clock” in my opinion and the discussion should be about who the next coach at ND will be,

      • dmac4real - Jul 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM

        Nude: “Guarenteed”…?

        I wasnt aware you and BK had such in depth conversations about this. Just because he hasnt named a starter doesent mean its going to be Tommy.

      • nudeman - Jul 19, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        Just my opinion

        After the faith he’s shown in Rees, the lack of accountability he’s demanded from him, and the comment about Golson after the BG game (“He’s a heart attack for me”), how can anyone disagree?

        If today, it would be Rees, and frankly I think he’ll start Rees on 9/1.
        And it will ultimately cost him his job.

        That’s a bit harsh on my part and maybe overly emotional, but remember, this would tell us two things:

        1) BK has had 2 highly talented QBs on the roster for 1.5 years each and hasn’t been able to develop either.
        Or even get them to learn his damn playbook. WTF?

        2) He remains attached at the hip to a MAC level talent who can’t play D-I college football. But he persists in playing him and is fine with 3-4 turnovers/game, despite his comments to the contrary.

      • dmac4real - Jul 19, 2012 at 3:45 PM


        He also called GA3 a heart attack, but that doesn’t mean you wont see him returning kick offs anymore. Hell, I would guess hed even get some PT a RB (which I realize is not QB but still).

        Now ill take my views on your two points.

        1. Quite honestly, it would have been dumb to give Golson pt this year. You have 3 capable QBs ahead of him with their eligibility burning, mise well save Golson’s. And to call Hendrix a “highly talented QB” is a stretch to me. The kid has the whole play book memorized, he just doesn’t produce very much on the field. IK we both agree on this. The kid just throws in 100 mph with no second thought. Also, to name a QB after the spring would have almost been dumb. That would have allowed that guy to slack off all summer. Now there is 4 guys fighting for the job with most likely a lot of dedication and constantly working for it. Why would you not want that? We really have no proof for either guy right now.

        2. Youre points against Rees are consistently over exaggerated. I am not a fan of him at all, and do not wish him to start, but cmon. Hes above a “Mac level talent who can’t play D-1 football.” He was offered by CW who had a decent track record of QB’s here at ND, even if he didn’t always win. So CW, Tennesee and Stanford (Jim Harbaugh) all saw him as above mac level talent. And to say he cant play D-1 football i will never agree with that. Hes 12-4. IDC about the defense or the running game. Hes 12-4. Thats not to say he deserves to start, but it does prove he can at least play a little in the high D-1 level.

        Honestly, If Golson doesent start, it is probably his fault. If he cant with the job over a “Mac level talent who cant play at a D1 level” or the guy who throws 1000000000 mph, then things arent looking to good. But heres to BK giving him a chance.

      • nudeman - Jul 19, 2012 at 4:01 PM

        1. You are right about Hendrix. I agree completely. I meant to imply that he was/is much more talented – physically – than Rees.
        2. IDK about AH knowing the whole playbook, whether through memorization or whatever. I think he’s still lacking there. I absolutely KNOW he’s still lacking in terms of field vision because I’ve even heard Chuck Martin say so.
        3. I am not a fan of AH but would still prefer him over Rees.
        4. Never advocated playing Golson last year, for the reason you mentioned. Better to protect his yr of eligibility.
        Should have played Crist or AH.
        5. Harsh, yes, but I am hardly the only one to refer to him as a MAC level talent. And I stand by that observation. He seems like a Northern Illinois type guy to me. Is there another team in the Top 25 or even 50 you could honestly see him starting for?
        6. Having offers from other good schools means zero. His play validates my opinion much more so than an offer list from 2-3 years ago. Tennessee, an SEC school would have lynched him by now. Never would have seen the field behind Luck at Stanf.

      • dmac4real - Jul 19, 2012 at 7:15 PM

        Fair enough.

        You still on the “Hendrix to SS” idea?

      • bernhtp - Jul 21, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        Golson certainly has more magic than the others. He has WAY more ability to make positive things happen when the first option break down. He buys time with his feet, is very elusive, can burn you running, freezes the linebackers, and has an uncanny ability to find open receivers downfield. He also has a strong and accurate arm.

        I think that Hendrix is given too much of a bad rap here. He lacks Golson’s elusivity (though far, far better than TR) and ability to extend plays for big games, but he is a far stronger north-south runner than the others and always threatens the read option with his size, strength, and speed. No one has a stronger arm than Hendrix and he gives a deep threat. His deep pass to Eifert (uncharacteristically dropped) was probably the best throw in the BG game.

        Hendrix needs to watch film of Joe Montana and develop touch on his passes. He often throws too hard, especially short. His proclivity to throw into the chest of OLBs obviously needs to end. He needs more experience to instinctively understand defensive position and flow.

        Golson needs to get his act together. He (reportedly) struggled academically in the fall, which diverted his attention from football and learning the necessary “science” of the offense. He might otherwise have been an option to play last season. He showed his “art” (his magic) in the spring game, but also made a number of errors that could have been very costly – calling for the snap while the motion man was passing center for the fumble, a fumbled snap, delay penalties because he didn’t know what was going on, etc. He was also inconsistent in spring practice – sometimes brilliant, sometimes terrible. I also worry a bit about his size and fragility. He’s pretty small, not just heightwise, and I fear one of his roll-outs will run right into an athletic DE, OLB or blitzing safety as he looks downfield for a catastrophic result.

        Anyway, one of these two guys needs to step up and take the QB job because none of us wants to even think about the alternative. Been there, done that, ugly result.

        • nudeman - Jul 21, 2012 at 3:09 PM

          I agree with everything here.
          The thing we hear consistently about Hendrix from those closer to the program than any of us is that he gets rattled too easily. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.

          The worst way it manifests itself is as you said – drilling a fastball right between the numbers of a LB. He hasn’t played all that much yet I think I’ve seen that 3 times now. In this regard, he’s no better than Rees. Maybe worse, if that’s possible.

          The podcast the other day and a follow up article by Pete Sampson had some good things to say about Golson in these 7 on 7 practices they’re holding. It appears that he’s grown up a bit and is truly trying to be a leader and seize the oppty, which was definitely not the case last year.

          That news doesn’t suck.

        • nudeman - Jul 21, 2012 at 3:29 PM

          Sorry, also meant to say re: Hendrix that the lack of poise and drilling the ball right into a LB’s chest and throwing fastballs to receivers from 10 yards away – those are all things that are hard to overcome unless a coach has unlimited patience and is willing to take the severe pain that accompanies it.

          Case in point: BK has shown enormous patience with Rees and he’s actually gotten worse. So I’ll say now what I’ve said before: Hendrix is a great athlete who should be on the field, somewhere. I just don’t think it’s in the cards for him to be a starting QB at ND. There are several other positions he could play – OLB, RB, and possibly safety. Unclear if he has the speed for RB or S. But he certainly isn’t afraid to put his pads down and try to drill people.

          People here killed me for saying that before, but these type of position switches happen all the time.

      • bernhtp - Jul 21, 2012 at 7:16 PM

        Regardless of who starts, we will play more than one QB, and I hope that #1-2 are Golson-Hendrix (or the other way around). I have no expectation that Kiel will be legitimately in the competition this year. Tommy needs to be wearing a red hat and gesturing wildly from the sideline.

        I listened to the II podcast yesterday and was happy to hear that Golson excelled in the 7×7 competitions. Of course, this is the format most suited to his abilities, so this is not terribly surprising. He still needs to be able to run the Kelly offense without forgetting plays, alignments, calling snaps into the motion man, etc. I really hope he gets it.

  8. cpfirish - Jul 19, 2012 at 5:19 PM


    You are totally right about TR being a MAC level QB!. Hey Nudeman can you answer just one question for me???? Why does BK like TR so much?? Does he see something we don’t??

    • nudeman - Jul 21, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      $64M question there, bro
      No idea

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