Hogs' Jones shines
FAYETTEVILLE With senior mainstay receiver Jared Cornelius’ ailing back omitting him from the 105 Razorbacks currently practicing, opportunity knocks bigger than ever for a wide receiving core that last year relied almost totally on Cornelius and four since graduated seniors from 2016.
At least, one, Smackover’s Jordan Jones who apprenticed last year as a redshirt freshman, apparently answers opportunity’s knock.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos cited Jones after Saturday’s practice, the third of preseason and the first with shoulder pads with another halfpads practice set Monday before Tuesday’s first practice NCAA allowed for full pads.
“Jordan Jones has had three days,” Enos said. “I mean, I think he's had four touchdown catches on deep balls. He's really flashed and shown speed and run by guys.”
Jones has operated both first team catching passes from senior starting quarterback Austin Allen and the second unit alternately quarterbacked by sophomore Ty Storey of Charleston and redshirt freshman Cole Kelley.
“He's been mostly with the ones though,” Enos said. “I think that Michael (Smith, the receivers coach) has been trying to rotate them around so we get good guys that know what they're doing and can play fast, both with the ones and the twos so the quarterbacks all have equal opportunity to play with guys who can play fast. But mostly Jordan's been with the ones. He's flashed and made some really, really explosive plays.”
Allen concurred, noting Jones’ maturity gained from redshirting.
“I saw that guy who took that next maturity step,” Allen said Saturday. “You can come
in as a freshman and you're still in that high school mode where things are pretty easy for you. Then you get to the SEC and it's kind of like, 'Oh, everyone can play.' He's a guy that has all the talent in the world. It's really just up to him how hard he works he can be as good as he wants to be. I think he has really taken that step and learned the offense better through the spring and summer. Right now he's a guy that I'm really forward to in the fall.”
Enos said Jones’ speed accelerates because now he knows where he’s going.
“When you play fast is when you know what to do,” Enos said. “When he breaks the huddle, he knows where to line up. He's out there and he's lined up quickly. We've really seen his speed in the first three days, and his ability to run by people and really push a secondary.”
It’s what they saw him from him in high school so far converting to college during the first three days of drills.
“I’ve said since Jordan has been here the sky is the limit for him talent wise,” Enos said. “He's one of the best I've ever been around as far as just the ability to run, body type, the ball skills and all that. If he can match it with his desire and intelligence, which he's shown us here in three days he's on track to do, I think we've got a special player.”
Jones was not the only receiver that Enos cited.
“I think Deon Stewart has really stepped up and asserted himself here very early, and T.J. Hammonds,” Enos said. “And then we've got the young guys. And the young guys, they've all had different times to impress. Jarrod Barnes, Koilan Jackson has been very good. Gary Cross has looked very good. So … um, we've got a bunch of guys. Jonathan Nance, I didn't mention. Him and Brandon Martin. both of those guys continue to come too.”
Stewart is a third-year sophomore who caught two passes last season.
Nance and Martin are junior college transfers who enrolled at the UA last January and went through spring drills.
Freshmen Barnes of Cabot and Jackson of Pulaski Robinson and Fordyce’s Cross, a transfer from Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, are practicing as Razorbacks for the first time this preseason.
Hammonds, a running back last season, also is practicing at running back behind starter Devwah Whaley along with true freshmen Maleek Williams and Chase Hayden and David Williams, the graduate transfer from the University of South Carolina.
Whaley was last year’s backup, gaining 600 yards behind Rawleigh Williams, the 1,000-yard rusher forced to give up football after his second major neck injury.
“Devwah's really stepped up,” Enos said. “You know Devwah, having that year under his belt and everything, he knows what to do. He knows the protections. He knows where to go. And then I think the addition of David Williams has been very good. You see a guy that has stepped in. He's mature. He's very bright. He's very good in pass protection. He's good catching the ball. He's very patient as a runner. And Chase and Maleek both have been really good. We've been moving T.J. back there and he's' a natural back there as well and very explosive. I really, really like the group. As we know, more than one of them is going to play. I think we've got some good options.”
The Razorbacks use Sundays as their NCAA mandated off day during preseason drills.