In the semifinals, fans in Louisiana and surrounding states got introduced to Neville '14 CB Laurence Jones when the Tigers traveled to Breaux Bridge in south-central Louisiana in front of a live, multi-state television audience.
That Breaux Bridge team included three LSU signees, including WR Travin Dural, who had gone practically unchecked all year long because DBs were simply overmatched against the lanky, speedy, sky-walking Dural.
Early in the semis, Dural beat Jones deep in single-coverage but the throw was off the mark. After that play, Jones did a heckuva job in blanketing Dural, and in the state finals Jones came up big once again vs. Karr (with an interception, a fumble recovery, a 34-yard kick return and four solo stops).
Jones showed he was ready to compete on the big stage at a high-profile event in Atlanta this past weekend.
He has tremendous size for a young corner at 6-2 and 215 pounds, and Jones (whose friends call him "Hootie") says he intends to remain at that position.
"The schools I like who have offered are LSU, Alabama, Texas, Oregon, Stanford and Oklahoma," said Jones. "My favorite is the only school whose camp I've attended (Alabama). Coach (Nick) Saban said I'm a good player. LSU has a good program. LSU and Alabama are both good programs, and I will be at LSU's one-day camp next month."
What did Jones say about his assignment to spy on Dural "alone on the island" in the semifinals at Breaux Bridge?
"I didn't know he was that fast and he got past me on the first play," Jones ruefully admitted (you can quickly ascertain that he's a fierce competitor, just like his older teammate, four-star safety (QB/WR) John Diarse (LSU commit).
"After that play, I locked him up."
Neville stymied a usually-potent Breaux Bridge offense that showcased LSU signees Lamar Louis (RB/LB), WR Kavahra Holmes and Dural. The Tigers of Mickey McCarty prevailed, 27-6. Neville also won the 4A state title three years ago vs. Franklinton, and many people think the Tigers have the best overall team (not just in 4A) for 2012 (and had the best team in 2011).
"I'm confident both as an individual and when it comes to my team - that we're getting better and will have a nice showing," said Jones of the '12 Tigers (Neville's campus, incidentally, is located only a couple of miles across the Ouachita River from '11 Class 5A state champ West Monroe).
"I did good (over the weekend in Atlanta vs. top prospects from across the nation). It was fun. The atmosphere was great. I didn't get to play much man-to-man, so I used my ball skills."
Naturally, many people have suggested that Jones -- who was already 6-2, 210 pounds as a sophomore -- might outgrow the cornerback position and end up at safety or even linebacker.
He says that he'd prefer to stay on the island, and you can tell that Jones loves the challenge involved in single coverage vs. a No. 1 WR.
"Jamming people at the line of scrimmage is a strength," Jones replied when asked for his strong suit(s) on the field.
Jones grew up as an Ohio State fan and might be puzzled that the Buckeyes have not shown any interest. After all, Ohio State has had success in Louisiana in the past at schools such as Archbishop Rummel (DL Nader Abdallah) and John Curtis Christian (RB Jonathan Wells).
"Staying close to home is not really a big deal to me," said Jones. "Ohio State was my fave in the third grade, but they aren't recruiting me. I'm still open to talking to them.
"Next month, I'm camping with LSU and I might be visiting Stanford."
Neville went 14-0 in 2011.