Highland CC LB joins Vandals

THIS FALL THE VANDALS will be showcasing a linebacker corps loaded with senior talent, led by Sun Belt honorable mention All-Conference pick Marc Millan and three other seniors. This summer the unit will be joined by JC transfer EMMANUEL JONES, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder out of Highland (Kansas) Community College. Trained in the 3-4 defensive alignment, look for Jones to make in impact this fall.

“He’ll do great for you guys, I really do believe that. He’ll have a good career up there.”

You gotta love this sentiment about future Vandal linebacker Emmanuel Jones. This isn’t a comment made by some analyst or fan; it’s the words of Jones’ former coach at Highland (Kansas) Community College, Ruzell McCoy. A First Team All-American at Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State University, McCoy is Highland’s Defensive Coordinator and linebackers coach. In 2013 he was Highland’s defensive line coach, and that unit sent six players to Division I programs, including Joe Keels (Nebraska) and Marcus Smith (Texas Tech).

The Highland name should be familiar to Vandal fans. A year ago, as part of the 2014 recruiting class, Idaho signed two athletes out of Highland in Glen Antoine, who will be Idaho’s No.2 noseguard going into fall camp, and Jeff Travillion, who is battling for a starting job on the Vandal offensive line this fall.

Under McCoy’s guidance Jones finished third on the team in 2014 as a true sophomore with 50 tackle, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pick and three pass breakups. He also led the team with seven sacks from his SAM (strongside outside linebacker) position. The effort earned Jones an Honorable Mention KJCCC All-Conference selection.

He spent just one season with the Scotties, transferring to Highland from New Mexico Military Institute in the spring of 2014 (another NMMI alum, Jermaine Johnson, is currently battling for playing time in the wide receiver rotation this fall in the Vandals air attack). The move to the higher profile Scottie program paid off for Jones.

“HE WAS THE TOUGH GUY that we needed from our strongside, passing side ‘backer,” Coach McCoy told GoVandals.net last week. “He joined us last spring and did a lot of good things for us in the passing game, but he did a lot of good things for us in the pass rushing game as well. I brought him off the edge – he can rush the passer, but he can also cover the best slots on opposing teams as well. He did a really good job for us, made a lot of plays, a top three tackler on the team, and led the team in sacks.

“He had a pretty good season, and I thought he was a really dynamic player.”

Jones and his 4.56-40 speed should be an advantage that the Vandals can utilize soon. With Idaho transitioning to the 3-4 this fall, keeping fresh legs rotating in on a regular basis in the linebacking corps will clearly be an objective. With a season under his belt in Highland’s 3-4 defensive scheme, he knows what to expect when he gets to Moscow.

“He’ll make a lot of plays for Idaho at that level,” Coach McCoy said. “Really coachable, smart, strong build, has an understanding of what the backs are positioned in and what type of plays he can get into from the formation. He’ll be a really good player for Idaho up there.”

He brings more to the program than his experience on the gridiron. Before picking Idaho he was getting a serious look from Utah State, but picked Idaho because of the opportunity at UI.

“At the end of the day he wanted to get into a program that he thought would be the best fit for him defensively,” Coach McCoy said, “and he thought Idaho would be the best fit for him to showcase what he can do on the field. He’s a great student, has a 3.5 GPA here, and he’s a guy who’s smart.

“He’s a great kid off the field, and he’s going to be a better teammate off the field as well and in the locker room.”

Jones as a senior at Roosevelt.

JONES’ JOURNEY TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL of NCAA football competition began in New York, where he was a fullback and linebacker and Team Captain at Roosevelt High School. A solid student, Jones’ collegiate journey began at the New Mexico Military Institute for one year, followed by one season last year at Highland College in Kansas. That journey to a Football Bowl Subdivision program ended in late March when Jones signed a letter of intent to join the University of Idaho.

The Vandals will be fielding an experienced group of starters this fall with the Broc Westlake poised to start at middle linebacker and flanked by Marc Millan (WILL) and Chris Edwards (SAM), plus a solid group of youngsters working their way up through the system in true freshman Kaden Elliss and sophomore Tony Lashley. Add Idaho's new BUCK linebacker position (a hybrid DE/LB position), which coming out of spring camp will be manned by giant JC transfer Leonard Hazewood (6-4, 240) and converted sophomore fullback Kevin Shelton (6-3, 260), an athlete tremendous upside. How much playing time Jones, who has three years to play two, earns this fall remains to be seen. Regardless, there should be stiff competition within this unit.

But the expectation is that Jones will be joining the program this June and will be competing for immediate playing time and an opportunity to make an impact this fall.

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