"Arkansas has got speed on both sides of the ball with their wide receivers, with their back, with their quarterback," Shula continued. "Jones has a strong arm. He's made some throws--just in the games that we've watched--down the field and hit some receivers versus tight coverage and press coverage."
One of the most entertaining quarterbacks in college football, Jones is 12-5 as a starter at Arkansas. He was named the USA Today National Player of the Week for his performance this year against Texas. Leading a powerful Razorback rushing attack, Jones ran the ball 12 times against the Longhorns, picking up 102 yards and a touchdown. He scored on a three-yard run and also broke free for a 60-yard scramble. Jones also threw for 139 yards and a touchdown in that impressive 38-28 victory over Texas.
Tide Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines has been impressed. "Jones is not just an option quarterback," Kines said. "He can sprint to the corner, and he throws the ball as well on the run as he does in the pocket. He's a scramble-to-run guy and not the other way around. He's their second-leading rusher, which tells you something."
Averaging 77.5 yards per game on the ground, Jones leads Arkansas in all-purpose yardage.
"His best asset is probably when he's got the ball in his hands and is just running," Shula said. "He's fast. He's big. He can make guys miss on his own just because of his quickness. And then when there is a guy who is trying to tackle him, he does a nice job of stiff-arming and keeping him away from his body so to speak, and he's athletic enough to do that."
Jones ranks fifth among active SEC players with 1,365 career rushing yards. He also ranks sixth with 23 career touchdown passes and eighth in both passing yardage (2,145) and completions (154). The Hogs are 13-6 in games in which he doesn't suffer an interception, 4-4 when he throws at least one pick.
Shula compares Matt Jones to Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen in his ability to avoid the sack by breaking tackles and then throw the ball deep. Arkansas leads the SEC in fewest sacks allowed, giving up only two in three games.
"We've had some other quarterbacks that we've talked about as far as challenging and bringing them down with (Jared) Lorenzen," Shula said, "but this guy--as far as that goes--bringing him down is going to be as tough as we've faced. A little bit like Lorenzen, Jones has got a strong arm, too. If he's scrambling or if someone's hanging on him, he's not just going to be able to throw a five or ten yard pass. He can still get it down the field 20 or 25 yards or 40 yards, whatever the case is."
The ultimate big-play quarterback, for his career Jones is averaging 26.0 yards per rushing score and 23.0 yards per passing touchdown.
"Arkansas will run the sprint draw then they'll fake the sprint draw to a play-action pass," Kines said. "(Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt) has done a nice job of putting together a package that plays to their strengths."
"He can create on his own," Shula added. "If the play breaks down he's got a strong enough arm that he can get the ball 30 yards down the field with a guy hanging on him."
Jones has always been known as an incredibly talented player that could hurt you with his feet. But in the past he's been erratic passing the football.
Shula says this year he's improved. "I can remember when he first started playing watching him on TV, and he just gets better and better. He's playing with a lot more confidence. He can do a lot of things. He can run the option, keep it himself and then create on his own if maybe it's a normal drop back pass where maybe something breaks down and he keeps his eyes down the field. He's always looking for that receiver."
So far this season Arkansas has enjoyed remarkable success in the red zone, scoring on a perfect 13-of-13 opportunities, including 10 touchdowns.
"Number one it's probably because of Matt and his ability to run the football," Shula said. "I think a lot of the teams over the years that have done well in the plus territory have been able to run the football. Now all the sudden you add the dimension of a quarterback being able to run it himself--whether or not it's the option or bootlegs or things like that."
The Razorbacks will even utilize a a package in which Jones lines up at wide receiver with Ryan Sorohan at quarterback. Jones actually began his college career as a flanker in 2001, before splitting time at quarterback the final eight games.
"In one game they came out with him in the game at receiver," Kines said. "They lined him up at wide receiver and threw a pass to him. With his size, he just shrugged off the defensive back and went up and got the ball."
"It's almost unfair the way they can move him around like that," Kines continued with a laugh. "I'm going to complain to Houston that they're using an ineligible receiver out there. He's tall, he's got great speed.
"He's a fun player to watch--if you don't have to play against him."