Notre Dame’s coaching staff landed a linebacker they have high hopes for when Jonathan Jones picked the Irish on Signing Day. A battle with Michigan and several other heavy-hitting programs, the Florida native is a middle linebacker who’ll step into an unknown depth chart behind Nyles Morgan, and the staff believes he’s capable of contributing from day one.
Undersized at six-foot, Jones’ instincts and athleticism will need to carry the day. But the Irish staff believes they will, and they’re counting on Jones to be an heir apparent behind Morgan—and learn Brian VanGorder’s system—quickly.
6’0″, 220 lbs.
Participated in The Opening. Played on Team USA U-19 team in the International Bowl. Was All-State Class 8A second team, No. 3 player in Orlando Sentinel’s Central Florida Super 60, and a consensus 3-star recruit.
Picked Notre Dame over Michigan, Stanford, Florida State, Ole Miss, LSU and Oklahoma.
It’ll be intangibles and Football IQ that turn Jones into a high-end player. Because his physical limitations certainly kept him from being a highly-rated recruit. Brian Kelly acknowledged that on Signing Day.
“Physically maybe his lack of height scared some people away, but [Jones has] just great instincts as a linebacker,” Kelly said. “Great leadership quality, physically strong, fit, athletic, and has a great awareness in the pass game, as well. For us, just looked like the consummate linebacker, he had all that innate ability and football recognition that you don’t have to teach.”
At this point, it’s hard to go against the evaluation skills of an Irish coaching staff that’s taken several three-star recruits and turned them into front-line players. But Jones will have to battle his size for the rest of his career.
Unless there’s an injury to Morgan or Greer Martini, I don’t see the need to play Jones. He may very well be an ultra-productive linebacker. But even with “likeable and learnable” being the new buzzwords for VanGorder’s defense, we’ve seen the challenges this system poses to first-year middle linebackers.
Jones might be too good to keep on the sidelines all season. But if he’s a contributor, it’s likely as a special teams weapon or if things go really haywire at linebacker. That doesn’t limit his future, as there aren’t too many true middle linebackers in the program right now. But for 2016, I’ll have modest goals for Jones.
2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Torii Hunter Jr.