Coach Says Michigan Got the Jump on Jones

Spartanburg, High (Spartanburg, SC) coach Freddie Brown has only been working with his star quarterback Cornelius Jones for one year, but it didn't take very long to understand the vast potential he was charged with honing. Brown chatted with GoBlueWolverine recently about Jones' development, his recruitment, his interest in Michigan, and more.

Sam Webb:  First and foremost coach, I want you to tell me a little bit about how Cornelius' first season a starter went?

Freddie Brown:  "It went good.  It went well.  I was a nine-year college coach before I went to high school.  My son plays in the SEC, so I've seen a few kids that can play.  I've really enjoyed working with (Cornelius Jones).  He learns extremely fast.  He's a gifted kid.  He's really gifted in a lot of ways – tough kid, good size.  He's got a very strong arm.  He struggled in learning some things in terms of putting it all together.  The last time he had played quarterback he was a very young kid, so it was a lot of responsibility.  I don't know if you know much about football in this area, but for about eight or nine weeks of the season we had the number one team in the country playing in our conference.  Our football conference is very, very good.  So he played against top level competition.  We're a Big 16 school, which means were one of the biggest 16 teams in the state.  So he played at a big time school.  We aren't so big time in terms of where our progression is right now because this is our first year here.  But historically we've turned out some very good players, very good teams, and played very good competition." 

Sam Webb:  Cornelius talked a little bit about his year a couple of times when we talked. He said it was an adjustment being a first year starter quarterback and with the team having a new coach.  How was it from your perspective, that adjustment process?

Freddie Brown:  "Well so much of what we did was new to all of us, not just to him.  He was the one that had the…it's like being the quarterback at Michigan.  So much of it falls on you because you're the guy that's out there.  He's already done that.  He made a tremendous adjustment.  It was tough learning a new system and then the league we're playing in.  We, again, had two nationally ranked teams in the top 10 in our conference.  Every team that we played is ranked.  Every team on our schedule is ranked – every team!  It was difficult, the learning curve as well as the tough competition.  We didn't have a great team.  We got some really good players and we're very young.  It's just a good league.  So yeah the transition was tough, all the football terminology was different.  Everybody was learning something and again, going through the course of the year, just like Michigan we're learning each other.  There were times where he got a little bumped up or hurt a leg or get tackled.  I would look at him and say you got to go back in.  He would just get up and do it.  He probably didn't feel like, but hey, that's what got to be done.  So he understands the position.  He needed to learn the offense, but he understands the position.  He understands football.  He has very good football running knowledge, picks things up very, very quickly, and is a high academic kid" 

Sam Webb:  Now coach you said something that I hadn't picked up from in all the times that we had talked.  You said that this was the first time he played quarterback in years?

Freddie Brown:  "Yeah."

Sam Webb:  So what was he doing as freshman and a sophomore?

Freddie Brown:  "When I took the job there was some controversy (in the previous program).  We had some controversy at the school and a lot of kids hadn't been coming out for football… let me just leave it at that.  So he had played in middle school and he had played quarterback, but he didn't play his 9th or 10th grade years while in high school.  So when I took the job he came out and of course that was his first year of playing quarterback."

Sam Webb:  Obviously you saw a lot of his talent.  Watching his film, he is very mobile, athletic, he can throw the ball, and he shows good accuracy.  What did you see are the things after year one as a quarterback that he needs to improve on?

Freddie Brown:  "Football is a game that you can't learn in one year.  You've got to continue especially at that position.  All of the little different things, we're a spread gun, run team, throw team.  We throw play action passes, very, very similar to West Virginia or at Michigan if you will.  We'll option out of our gun packages and so you get a lot of junk defenses.  So okay, it kind of looks like a 4-3, but they've taken an outside back and put him on the line scrimmage and cheated the safety down just outside the tackle box.  Those are things that over time you recognize.  It's still the base package of 4-3, but it's a little different because they are playing away this play, but on the backside they are giving you this.  So those nuances of the game… work at the nuances of the game.  He threw for just over 1100 yards.  He will do a better job… receiver wise we dropped a ton of balls.  He has a cannon!  He can throw the ball a country mile and very accurately at times, but he can improve on that.  He ran for 753 yards and eight touchdowns.  He forced some balls last year in places that he probably shouldn't have forced them.  His decision making, I don't know a quarterback in college, pro or high school that doesn't need to continue working on decision making.  The boy at New England, he's great, not (Matt) Cassel, (Sam Webb – ‘Tom Brady'), well he got hurt didn't he (laughter).  That's always a way to look at it.  He can continue to improve on his decision making in terms of with the ball in his hands.  If there are 85 plays in a game then he has to make 85 decisions.  So there is high margin for error.  In an offense like ours and Michigan's, a guy is going to have the ball a lot… he has got to do the right thing.  He's got to do the right thing a heavy percentage of the time for you to have a chance to win.  So decision making is the one that I would say he needs to continue on improving upon, and that comes with time.  That comes with playing more reps.  If you look from start to finish, I'm real proud of what he did his first year.  He's a tremendous talent.  He can run like the wind."

Sam Webb:  He's talks very optimistically about what you guys are going to do this year.  Also about the schools that are coming at him or are going to come at him as far as football is concerned.  I know he told me that Michigan started looking at him really early. Duke and Wake Forest as well.  What are the colleges saying to you?  Have they been apprehensive because he's only been at quarterback for a year or are they starting to come more and more now?

Freddie Brown:  "My relationship with those guys (at Michigan)…  I was coaching at Wofford College back when Rich (Rodriguez) was up at West Virginia.  We went up and played them.  It was at a point in the game, it was about third and 7 or 8 and they gave the ball to Steve Slaton and the quarterback got hurt or something.  So it's third down or something, and Pat White comes in the game.  They ran a quarterback sweep and I then I aint never heard from (the starting quarterback) again.  We've been looking for him on milk cartons (laughter).  He never showed up again.  So when I talk to those guys up at Michigan, I look at guys at that fit places, all I'm going to say is here's a tape.  I sent them a DVD from spring game stuff.  I just had a Pat White flashback.  Once they saw it, they understood.  They understood – very similar, very similar."

Sam Webb:  He said that Michigan, Duke, Wake Forest he says are the ones that have offered him.  Do any other schools seem like they on the verge of making offers at this point?

Freddie Brown:  "Oh man, they're so many of them.  We've got our local schools.  He was at South Carolina yesterday for junior day and a national recruiting deal… the South Carolina top 25 or something.  He was there yesterday taking pictures for Tom Lemming.  Then North Carolina, we went up there last summer.  They're just really, really high on him.  A lot of guys are recruiting him.  He's 6'2", 197 pounds I think.  We haven't weighed him a couple of days.  We'll height and weight him tomorrow.  He's got a tremendous vertical, can run like the wind.  You take him as an athlete at that level because not many guys you going to find 6'2", 200 pounds that can run a 4.4 forty, can jump out of the gym, has great hands, can throw the fool out of the ball and can catch it very well too.  There is just not that many guys out there like that.  You look at his quarterbacking skills and you recruit him as a quarterback.  Coach Cutcliffe from Duke came in and offered him personally. I said what do you think about him?  He said, I looked at all the film and he's very slow with his lower body and fast twitch with his upper body, that is the sign of a tremendous starting quarterback at the next level."

Sam Webb:  So now coach, one of the things that he said to me was that Michigan got on him early.  He liked them.  He told me that Michigan was his leader.  What has it been so far that has made Michigan such a factor with him?  Is it just that they got in on him early?

Freddie Brown:  "No doubt.  Tony Gibson, I mean he did a great job.  He's done a great job since day one.  When I sent the stuff, I got an immediate response back.  I made a couple of calls and it was kind of tough originally… I mean they were going through a tough season and all this stuff… but I sent it and they got back to me and I got it back to him (Cornelius).  They made an offer.  I told him about it.  Obviously the instate schools are going to make a push at him because he is from South Carolina.  I believe Georgia will jump in there somewhere pretty soon.  Regionally, Tennessee is going to be in the race, simply because again everybody is looking at what these athletic quarterbacks are doing.  If you're in this game and you don't understand that a guy that can throw, how big a threat he is, you're confused about what is going on in college football (laughter).  Those guys are troubled.  You can't really run your linebackers out.  You can't really drop in coverage.  Guys kind of have to be tweeners.  You got to be a run stopper and a pass defender.  With today's opportunities, I think you'll see it at Michigan this year, you have to get to that point."

Sam Webb:  Cornelius said that you guys are coming up for the junior day on the 13th.  

Freddie Brown:  "I don't know.  I'm working on those things.  It's a tough economy right now.  We're tentatively coming up now.  If we don't come up on the 13th then we'll definitely be up in June."

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