OLNEY, Md. -- In a Sept. 4 battle between two of the top teams in Maryland, Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) trekked down to Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) and came away with a 36-29 overtime road victory. Even so, Falcons linebacker and Maryland pledge Keandre Jones showed why he’s considered a four-star recruit, recording 13 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble.
Our take on his game is below (along with a highlight video at the end of the report), while an interview with Jones can be seen above:
The closest to a “sure thing” in Maryland’s 2016 class, Jones looks ready to step onto a college field right now – at least as far as his game is concerned. Simply put, this guy really brings it on pretty much every play, and he forces your attention with his relentless, grueling style.
Physically, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound linebacker (he now lines up at middle linebacker for Good Counsel, but was previously an outside linebacker) has a sinewy, long frame, although he’s added some noticeable thickness during the offseason. He has broad shoulders, a sturdy base, long arms and powerful, large hands.
Jones uses all those assets on the field, although it’s his athleticism that makes him a highly-rated recruit. The Good Counsel star possesses elite football speed, and it shows up most readily when he’s in pursuit. Jones doesn’t so much “flow” to ball; rather, he attacks it with reckless abandon. Jones fires forward at the snap, his initial burst and downhill momentum allowing him to close gaps quickly. He takes tight, precise closing angles, while his above-average anticipation and field awareness help as well.
Naturally, Jones uses those same qualities when blitzing too. If linemen or tight ends don’t pick him up right away, Jones will shoot by them, bee-lining right to the quarterback. And when Jones reaches said signal caller, he’s going to put him on his back. The Good Counsel backer is a finisher; he goes hard through the whistle, his motor on overdrive.
Jones can also change direction extremely quickly, almost like a quick-twitch running back. When backs attempt to juke or deke by him in space, Jones stays right on them. He’s rarely, if ever, caught flatfooted, deftly moving his feet; breaking down; and shifting his weight as he closes in.
Jones also possesses the lateral agility and pure speed to cover sideline-to-sideline. He runs well in the open, firing down the line to catch runners on the opposite end of the field. Fact is, he’s faster than many high school backs, which is why you’ll often see him as a special teams gunner.
And when Jones meets his man, it’s over. The Falcons defender is a “de-cleater,” his hits often warranting a second look. Generating power from his base, Jones thrusts forward and knocks runners backwards. It follows that he surrenders no leaky yardage, nor does he let his man slip away with a faulty arm tackle.
Sometimes, unrefined linebackers will lower their heads, zero in and then proceed to whiff when the back sidesteps them. But Jones displays proper form and then, when the runner’s within grasp, he lowers his shoulder and delivers the boom.
When pursuing laterally, Jones uses those aforementioned long arms and active hands to easily disengage from blockers. He doesn’t let linemen get into his body as he picks his way through traffic. The latter trait allows Jones to make plays in the gaps as well. He actively works his way into the holes, fends off blocks, and corrals running backs before they can pop into the second level.
The area where Jones really showed improvement, though, is in his pass coverage. He always has the speed, fluidity and footwork needed to pick up tight ends/receivers in space, but Jones just wasn’t asked to do it much at Good Counsel. Now, he’s dropping back more often and did a more than adequate job defending the flats.
Of course, Jones must continue developing in the latter area. He still can be hesitant at times in coverage; it’s not second nature for him yet. But once he gains more experience, Jones should be a fine cover linebacker.
Jones also has to make sure he keeps his lane integrity and doesn't overpursue. Once in awhile, when he's in attack mode, you'll see him overrun a play.
It would behoove Jones to add a little more muscle too. While his frame is solid, he could stand to bulk up and add even more power to deal with Big Ten blockers.