BALTIMORE, Md. -- Be it at safety, linebacker or rush end, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) junior standout Keandre Jones doesn't take long to make his presence felt.
As in the first play.
On Sept. 19 in the Good Counsel-Gilman showdown at the Baltimore prep power, Jones promptly dropped Greyhounds quarterback Kai Locksley for a four-yard loss on Gilman's first play from scrimmage as the FSU-bound signal-caller tried to bounce a keeper outside the left side.
Jones, who has an early Maryland offer and a total of eight, would go on to post 7 tackles, 2 TFLs and a forced fumble (on another hit on Locksley) in the Falcons 20-0 loss at Gilman.
"It's a big rivalry every year," Jones said. "We try to make our defense our statement, come out and compete each and every play. I just tried to fly around and make plays."
While Good Counsel (3-1) suffered its first loss of the season, and Gilman improved to 2-2 behind better success through the air, Jones has seen his season progress as well as his offer list. The 6-3, 205-pounder recently added an Iowa offer, and he will attend, unofficially, the Maryland-Penn State game at Happy Valley later this season.
A year ago he was more up on the line of scrimmage rushing the edge, now he's back as more of a hybrid/rover type.
"It's nothing that new," Jones said of moving around positions. "Because last year I did a lot of in-space covering guys, so I am just going out there and playing the same position but in the middle, on the sides. I am everywhere. I just want to get to the ball."
Jones also forced a fumble in the red zone against Gilman, but the play was negated on a penalty.
"I just feel comfortable out there, and it's all about to help the team out wherever I can," said Jones, who runs a 4.7 40 and has a 34-inch vertical.
Jones said colleges are recruiting him as a linebacker, though he could play safety down the road as well. He was running down plays from the backside, while stout in the middle with several stops of Locksley in the zone read rush game.
Maryland, Penn State, West Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, Virginia and Charlotte lead his offer list, which continues to grow. Last week he took a mid-week visit to College Park to visit his buddy and former teammate Jesse Aniebonam, who is playing as a true freshman this fall at UMD.
"It's the hometown school, the hometown team," Jones said. "So my mom wants me to come there, my family an friends, so it's definitely one of my top choices. And Jesse, I think he is doing a good job, just keep up the hard work, and hopefully I can be up there one day playing with him. But we got a lot of Good Counsel guys up there."
Jones said Penn State followed by Maryland may be his top two at this time, though it's still early and he wants to go through the entire process and decide during his senior year.
"Jesse, he loves it, he loves it," Jones said of Maryland. "He just tells me to keep my head on tight and be prepared for college because it is different."
Jones also hopes to visit Kentucky unofficially as well this fall, but has no date set yet.
Jones said he wants to continue to work on becoming even more physical, "and adding to my understanding of the game and what I need to do to et off blocks. That kind of thing," Jones said.
He said Penn State "treats me like family," while he is tight with so many Terps. Meanwhile, WVU may be third.
"But I still want to take visits and narrow down my list later on," Jones said.
Jones hopes to study sports medicine at college.
He has some 25 tackles on the season, while adding four sacks and the forced fumble last Friday.
Jones is a guy who has gone from free safety to begin his career to outside linebacker to a sometimes-defensive-end in Good Counsel’s defense. He projects as a rover-type outside linebacker in college, but what makes Jones so recruitable is his versatility and experience at three different spots. He has the speed and looseness to shadow receivers and tight ends who range over the middle; the burst, acceleration and quickness needed to beeline into the backfield or make plays in space; and the frame (he’s built to take on weight) and initial giddy-up to rush off the edge.
Moreover, Jones is a sharp tack; he sees the field and diagnoses plays well, seemingly gaining an extra step or two based on his pre-snap reads. He’s one of those defenders who is always around the ball, and not necessarily because of his talent alone.
As a run defender, Jones is active on the edges, either funneling runners inside or tracking them down himself. He does a good job picking through the trash and disengaging, using his active hands to get off blocks on his way to the ball-carrier. On top of that, his footwork, combined with his cat-quick first step, allows him to slide through gaps and slice into the backfield.
And when Jones reaches his man, he typically brings him down with a solid form tackle. Jones may not be the most punishing hitter, but he’s not going to whiff or surrender much leaky yardage after contact. He’s a disciplined run defender as well. It’s obvious he’s been well coached, because he stays in his lane and rarely overpursues a play.
But, really, it’s pass defense/open field coverage where Jones separates himself from many high school linebackers. Linebackers who play well coming downhill are a dime a dozen, but those who can run and cover like a free safety, in addition to defending the box, are much more rare (think Matt Robinson). Jones is so adept at sticking to receivers throughout their routes he actually lines up at cornerback occasionally. He’s fluid, transitions well for a linebacker and doesn’t have much stiffness. Jones can track deep and offer downfield help too, and he has the ability to fire forward and undercut a route. Again, his instincts, along with his pure athleticism, aid him in this area.
To take his game up a notch, we’d like to see Jones become even more powerful at the point of attack. He’s not a true thumper just yet, and he can do a better job of getting low, driving from his base and really driving his man backwards. He also has to continue working on his lateral agility, as sometimes his feet can get crossed when running sideline-to-sideline.
And while Jones does typically disengage well, once in awhile bigger and stronger blockers can get into his body, so he has to work on extension, as well as adding strength. Building up his body is really the main concern here, as Jones probably needs to add more muscle and mass to hang as an FBS outside linebacker.
Jones Has Two Up Top, Plus Scouting Report
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