Steven Jones was recently hired to replace long-time head coach Joey Porter at Columbia High School. In addition to inheriting a fairly talented roster, he brings along his son, Corey – one of the top rushers in the state over the last two seasons.
"I guess you could say Corey was our go-to guy," said Steven. "He kind of came out of nowhere as a sophomore when his older brother (Chris) was on the team. We threw the ball a lot but Corey broke out and turned into a guy we could use with our running game.
"What he does best is open-field running. I don't know that I've ever seen anyone tackle him one-on-one. It's his vision. You can teach them fundamentals but things like vision are something you're born with."
Corey (5-11, 185) heads to Columbia having accumulated 4,935 yards of total offense and 48 touchdowns over his sophomore and junior years at Florence. He also averaged over 35 yards per punt return on 21 chances before opponents started kicking away from him. Corey was a Class 3A all-state selection for the 2001 season, the offensive Most Valuable Player of his district and a member of the All-Jackson Metro team as chosen by the Clarion-Ledger.
In addition to running 40 yards in the 4.4-second range, Corey holds a 3.98 grade point average and has scored a 21 on the ACT. He is currently ranked fifth in his class at Florence.
The recruiting process is finally starting to hit home with Corey, says his father. Scholarship offers are coming in from mid-major schools like Marshall, Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee while every school in the Southeastern Conference is giving indications of strong interest and potential offers.
"He's been somewhat naive about the process until now," Steven explained. "Back when he was a sophomore, I would ask him, ‘Corey, where are you thinking about going to college?' He'd answer, ‘Wherever they give me a scholarship.'
"He's starting to figure out he's going to have his choice. He learned with Chris' experience in being recruited."
Chris Jones, a 5-foot-8 wide receiver, held out throughout the recruiting process and ultimately ended up at Delta State. Corey, according to his father, will probably check out more camps and campuses since he is getting more attention.
Colorado has called on Steven regarding Corey, as has Stanford. Steven and first-year head Cardinal head coach Buddy Teevens, the former coach at Tulane, have worked together at the annual Manning Passing Academy in Hammond.
Notre Dame has also expressed an interest. "We're Catholics," Steven said. "Our priest here must have made a call up there for them to check Corey out, and we're starting to get calls from them."
The Jones boys are already familiar with the layout at LSU having taken part in Nick Saban's 7-on-7 camps. The Tigers also hosted Corey and some of his Florence teammates at the Arkansas game in November.
"He was pretty impressed," said Steven. "You could say LSU is probably his favorite choice right now, but I don't know where LSU stands on him."
LSU has already been in touch with Steven about Corey and another one of Florence's players – tight end/wide receiver Brian McNair. At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, McNair will have to bulk up to play on the college level, says coach Jones. The 2001 season was his first playing competitive football.
Jones might also get inquiries from the Tigers' staff on two of Columbia's returning players. Fullback/linebacker Toney McKinney (6-2 235) is a "wired-up, cut" athlete who should get serious Division I attention, and offensive lineman Roshod Powell is 6-8, 360-pound offensive tackle will be looked at seriously if his grades are in order.
Steven has been making the 70-mile trip from Florence to Columbia once or twice a week to get acquainted with his new staff and student-athletes. He says he hopes to be firmly situated in Columbia by the end of April, although Corey and his wife (who's a teacher at FHS) will have to finish the rest of the term at Florence.
The Joneses should be back in Baton Rouge over the summer for another 7-on-7 camp.