If you want to win at PlayStation2's NCAA Football 2005 game, don't pick Matt Jones as your quarterback. The computer version of Matt Jones is nothing like the one I've seen in practice this August.
Even Jones deadpans, "I never pick me when I play. I always beat Arkansas. I let other people pick me and I win."
Arkansas quarterback coach Roy Wittke has teenage boys in his home and has seen the computer game played. He's talked to those who know the newest version.
"They tell me that it does nothing to replicate what Matt can do on the field, especially in regards to his speed," Wittke said. "I don't play the game because I get so darn mad because I can't make it do what I want. But I've seen it (played) and know something about it."
Matt wouldn't say if he thinks he is accurately rated as far as running and passing skills in the computer game.
"I don't think that's for me to say," he said. "I just know that I'm not very good on those games. I don't want to be me."
I'd want to have the Matt Jones that I've seen this August. He's been nothing less than spectacular on the UA practice field over the last two weeks. Some say he's been that way for the better part of the summer. They say he put on a show at Fayetteville High when the Hogs were in their summer seven-on-seven "volunteer" workouts.
"He's got his game face on right now, I'll tell you that," said David Moore, father of UA linebacker Clarke Moore and someone who has known Jones for many years dating back to peewee ball in Van Buren.
"You can see that Matt is locked in and doing everything he can to be perfect in everything he's doing in practice. He's something to watch right now, just about flawless."
Houston Nutt, the UA head coach, nodded in agreement when told of Moore's assessment.
"Matt is into it," Nutt said. "He keeps asking me, ‘Coach, can we scrimmage today?' Sometimes when a senior sees that his time is running out, you really see the light come on. I think that's happened for Matt. He can't wait to get out here each day and he wants to scrimmage every day. He's been very good and very consistent."
Wittke sees what Moore and Nutt see.
"The bottom line is that Matt is improved," Wittke said. "He's improved and he's playing better. You take a fourth-year starter and that's what you are going to get almost every time. You hope they elevate their game their last year and you look at Matt and that's happening."
Wittke said there are a couple of areas he sees a big difference.
"First, he's being more patient in the pocket," Wittke said. "Much more patient. He's taking his time and going through the progression, looking at one, two and then sometimes three receivers. He's always had some natural things you want at quarterback and better feet than most think. And, he's got the arm to whip it when he needs it. You see him do things that few others can do like throw in tight quarters when you can't step, like he's in a phone booth.
"The second thing, he's doing a tremendous job making decisions on whether to run or throw when he's flushed. He knows how to make the defense think he's running and then find someone at the instant they commit to the run. He's making lots of big plays doing that. He can still run it and will, but he doesn't always run when he's flushed. I will say this, too, he is making the right decision almost every single time."
You see some wonderful chemistry between the wideouts and Jones. They continue their routes when he's flushed and that's produced some big, big pass plays. Marcus Monk has been on the other end of many of those throws, often far down the field.
It's obvious that Jones and Monk, 6-7 freshman wideout, have outstanding chemistry. They have more than their long limbs in common.
"He's a great athlete," Jones said of Monk. "You know that by realizing that he was our state's Mr. Basketball last year. He's a great athlete and they can usually make plays."
The Hogs have more good young players making great plays in camp. Peyton Hillis and Monk produce at least one catch per day worthy of ESPN's SportsCenter.
That's another reason Jones thinks the computer game NCAA Football 2005 is way off in the way it rates the Hogs.
"I believe the new game has Peyton Hillis on it," Jones said. "But it doesn't have Marcus Monk or Anthony Brown. They don't know about what we've got. They don't know about some of these young players that are really good. You see what we've got and you know we are better than that now.
"You look at someone like a Monk or maybe a Marcus Winston, a tight end who can run and catch, and you like what the season might be. It's not a surprise to me because I knew about these athletes. You knew that if you had a Mr. Basketball coming in, he was going to be good."
Yes, there are some surprises waiting for those on Arkansas' 2004 schedule. One of them is Matt Jones.
State of the Hogs: Matt Jones
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