RECRUITING: Down To Six For A.J. Jones

Tampa Middleton linebacker A.J. Jones took on a Sarasota Riverview blocker and got a push on him, which tripped the back short of the goal line on a very big fourth down stand. The play helped earn the Tigers a 17-9 victory and Jones a big welcome back.

(A.J. Jones profile)

"It (the Freedom game one week earlier) wasn't my best game," Jones stated. "I got yelled at a lot. It was my first game back since the Hillsborough game, where I had a knee strain and a contusion. I had to sit out the Armwood game. The coaches got on me after we played Freedom, saying that this was my softest game of the year. They felt that I should have been in the 20-tackles range again like I was against Mitchell. It made me step up my game against Riverview."

Jones and his Middleton (6-3) teammates need to secure a victory this Friday night against Newsome to secure a playoff spot. The Tigers would most likely face District 12 champion Armwood (7-1) in the first round.

Despite the injury, Jones is having a very good year. The 6-2, 197-pound linebacker played a little strong safety against Freedom.

"I know that I'm around 95 or 100 tackles (on the season)," Jones said. "I know that I had 13 tackles against Riverview last week. I only have four sacks this year because every team that we play goes max protect on my side. If I'm blitzing, they'll peel a guard back or use a running back to try and pick me up. It's okay though, because it's opened things up for my teammates."

He is balancing football with recruiting, where he is gaining more interest. Jones says that there are only a handful of schools that he'll be seriously considering. He was most enthusiastic when speaking about Southern Cal.

"I'm still getting a lot of mail," he said. "I don't see the coaches that much. I mean, I see them come out to the school, but I don't meet with them. A lot of them have said that they come out to the game. With my speed (4.49) they say that I can do a variety of things. But, they say they would like me in the box with my aggressiveness and my style of play and whatever. They can play me out in coverage on a wide receiver."

"I like Florida, Alabama, LSU, USC, Ohio State, and Tennessee. I'll evaluate the schools pretty close, because that's a place where I'll be the next four or five years. I think that I'll probably make a signing day decision."

FLORIDA: "I have a lot of contact with them. I know pretty much everything about the Gators. I talk with Coach (Charlie) Strong and Coach (Stan) Drayton. You can look at the losses, but I don't see it that way. I look at it as an opportunity to help them out more. It doesn't really affect me one way or another. I'm cool with it."

ALABAMA: "I'm starting to keep in touch with them a lot. Coach (Dave) Ungerer, my recruiting coach, tells me a lot about them. I talk to Coach (Mike) Shula once a week or whatever. I like the way Joe Kines runs his defense. It's an aggressive defense. They really come after you."

OHIO STATE: "I get mail from them every day. At least four or five letters a week. They are really recruiting me hard. Once they jumped in, they really haven't stopped. The coach came down here, Coach (Tim) Beckman. I met him. It sounds like it's a pretty good atmosphere to be up there."

TENNESSEE: "I like Tennessee a lot too. Coach (Phil) Fulmer and Coach (Dan) Brooks came down to my game the other week (against Freedom). It was the one where I caused a fumble and we ran it back 95 yards."

USC: "I've been keeping in contact with them a lot. That is one of the schools that I've been in contact with the most. They want me to come out and visit on November 5th or November 18th. It would be a good opportunity and a good experience to go out there and see what the west coast is like. I talk to them a lot on the phone. But, I remember last year when Coach (Pete) Carroll came out here to my school and I met them."

LSU: "I like the Tigers a lot. It sounds like it's an exciting place to be. I think they have a good program."

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