With a familiar bloodline and last name to Alabama fans, Cordova (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian standout Walker Jones announced his intent to play for the Crimson Tide last Tuesday. With the dust settled on the "why's" and "how's" surrounding his decision, BamaMag.com takes a look at the "what."
The 6-foot-2 ½, 225-pounder is considered a three-star talent on FOX Sports NEXT and the 80th-ranked player in America at the outside linebacker position. After some film review, the specifics on Jones make it apparent that the Tide is getting an all–around football player in addition to a legacy prospect.
The first thing that is easy to notice on film with Jones is his savvy. He knows the game of football and it helps him no matter what he's trying to accomplish on the field. Whether it be fending off of blocks, shooting the gap or even running the rock – his high football IQ helps him to make up for many things. His savvy translates to big plays on either side of the ball.
Defensively, Jones shows very good instincts. He attacks blockers with the next step in mind. Most very good high school linebackers have a common drive to get to the football, but it doesn't always mean they get there efficiently and appropriately. Jones knows how to take on blocks physically with his above-average strength and mentally by using the right shoulder depending on the defense's scheme. His desire to take down a ball carrier doesn't outweigh his need to stay disciplined.
Though controlled and calculated, Jones can still let it rip when he needs to. While blitzing on tape, he uses his knowledge to deflect passes when he can't get there although he usually does. And when the rising senior gets there, he doesn't go for arm tackles. He shows good acceleration and drive once he engages the ball carrier, even in space – where most high schoolers struggle.
Still Needs Work
While Jones is well-put together; there are some flaws in his game. The good news is that he can correct each at the next level.
For one, Jones is a fast-flow guy. This means that he is influenced by the motion of the play. While this plays to his instincts as a second-level defender, it inhibits his ability to play the cut-back game. At the high school level it's tough to notice because he is more athletic than most running backs he faces and still finds a way to make the tackle despite his over-pursuit.
Jones also often relies on his athletic ability in making plays. While the fatigue of playing both ways (he doubles as a good running back) may have something to do with it, he tries to overpower offensive payers with big hits. While those are ideal at that level and often leads to oohs and ahhs from the crowd, the need to wrap-up every time is much more important.
As one can tell, Walker Jones is well on his way to the college game. The pair of nit-pick flaws in his game is something that will be corrected with practice reps and consistent film study at the SEC level. While any defensive player will find it hard to start at Alabama as a true freshman, the ceiling for his talent is good enough to play down the road. He is the most athletic of his family at this stage of his career, as well as the strongest.
Jones has the tools to be an early special teams helper as soon as the 2013 season with his solid 4.6 speed and combination of height , weight and desire to make plays – but playing the outside linebacker spot will take some time. The good news is that the small amount of weight he needs to put on will be accomplished sooner than later and the acquired mental skills and system adaptation should come with time. The familiarity he has with the program should only help in his quest for time on defense, where he will best fit the Alabama Crimson Tide.