Speedy Jones look­ing for bounce-back year

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen Ra­zor­backs Re­port

FAYET­TEVILLE - Start­ing Year Two, the Chad Mor­ris Arkansas Ra­zor­backs regime added team speed it des­per­ately sought.

But it didn’t add to its top speed.

Jor­dan Jones, the re­ceiver re­cruited out of Smack­over and red­shirted in 2016 by Arkansas’ for­mer Bret Bielema regime and let­ter­ing in 2017 as a re­serve for Bielema and for Mor­ris in 2018, re­mains the fastest Ra­zor­back, sec­ond-year strength coach Tru­main Car­roll con­firmed at the out­set of Arkansas’ since un­der­way pre­sea­son drills.

“Start­ing out with fastest guys on the team, ob­vi­ously you are well aware of Jor­dan Jones,” Car­roll said.

A Mor­ris re­cruit, red­shirt fresh­man re­serve de­fen­sive back Ladar­rius Bishop of Ash­down is the Ra­zor­back most apt to give Jones a run for his money in a sprint, Car­roll sur­mised.

“I don’t want to speak on it,” Jones said, smil­ing when asked who is faster. “I told him I wanted to race him and see how it is in com­pe­ti­tion. He’s pretty fast. He’s pretty quick, too. I think it will be a good race one day.”

For his po­si­tion group, re­ceivers coach Justin Stepp cer­tainly as­serts none is faster than the Smack­over speed­ster.

“He’s been blessed with a lot of God-given speed and a lot of God-given abil­ity,” Stepp said.

Given his size (6-1, 180), speed, abil­ity and po­ten­tial, it seemed Jones was bound for an­nual im­prove­ment.

But af­ter go­ing from 2016 red­shirt to strong 2017 let­ter­man with 20 catches for 402 yards and three touch­down catches, Jones, upon star­ring with five catches for 132 yards in­clud­ing a 57-yard touch­down in the 55-20 sea­son-opener over out­manned Eastern Illi­nois, Jones strug­gled like the rest of the 2-10 Hogs last year. For the re­main­ing 16 of his sea­son’s catches, Jones net­ted just 59 yards. He fin­ished with 17

catches for 191 yards and that first-game TD.

A dis­ap­point­ment, it seemed.

Stepp de­murred. He ex­plained why as part of an of­fen­sive staff that other than holdover tight ends coach Barry Lun­ney en­tirely ac­com­pa­nied Mor­ris to Arkansas as his 2015 through 2017 as­sis­tants at SMU.

“I wouldn’t say dis­ap­point­ment,” Stepp said. “There were a lot of things Jor­dan had to learn about us and kind of the way we op­er­ate. I think there was a huge learn­ing curve.”

And not just for Jor­dan Jones.

“I think every­body strug­gled a lit­tle bit last year,” Stepp said. “We strug­gled as coaches.”

Jones was asked if in­di­vid­u­ally he took 2018 as a dis­ap­point­ment.

“I wouldn’t say it was a dis­ap­point­ment but I was dis­ap­pointed in some of my stats and num­bers,” Jones said. “But it’s not all about me. What­ever I can do to help get wins, that’s what I am go­ing to do.”

Stepp saw Jones do­ing just that in spring drills and the sum­mer off­sea­son joined by a flock of fresh­man flashes go­ing into the Au­gust pre­sea­son.

“He’s stepped up,” Stepp said. “Ob­vi­ously com­pe­ti­tion at his po­si­tion helps. He’s had an un­be­liev­able spring and re­ally good sum­mer. I’m ex­cited to see what he does this fall.”

Jones started the sea­son be­liev­ing he knows the of­fense and that he and se­nior 3-year let­ter­man re­ceiver Deon Ste­wart of Hardy can im­part it to true fresh­men Trey Knox, Shamar Nash, Trey­lon Burks and T.Q. Jack­son.

“It’s dif­fer­ent be­cause

I’m the old guy and I’m used to be­ing a younger guy,” Jones said. “I’m help­ing the younger guys as much as I can when they ask ques­tions and try to give as much to them as the older guys be­fore gave me. Me, Deon, (sopho­more let­ter­man) Mike Woods, the guys that played a lot last year. We’re try­ing to be there for those younger guys. The world is spin­ning for them, ev­ery­thing is so fast. We’re try­ing to calm them down and give them as much as help as we can.”

Jones said he can help them off be­ing help him­self learn­ing from last year’s hard knocks and what this staff ex­pects.

“We had tough times at times last year dur­ing the sea­son, but I feel we’re a lot bet­ter than last year,” Jones said. “I’m a lot more com­fort­able in the of­fense. Know­ing what I’m do­ing I can line up quicker and feel like that takes a lot more pres­sure off me and the other guys, too, to play faster.”

It’s not just speed, Jones has learned, that makes you play fast.

“I think in high school he was so much faster and bet­ter than every­body,” Stepp said. “But at this level in this con­fer­ence you’ve got to have at­ten­tion to de­tail. Just bring­ing that at­ten­tion to de­tail every day he has done so much bet­ter. That’s why I’m ex­cited to see what he’ll do this fall.”

CRANT OS­BORNE/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Arkansas re­ceiver Jor­dan Jones, 10, runs af­ter a catch in a game last sea­son. Jones looks to build on sta­tis­tics af­ter a “learn­ing curve” sea­son as the Hogs went 2010.

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