Coach Steve Jones, Columbia HS

This is another interview in a series of interviews that Gene's Page is conducting with high school coaches in Mississippi. Today's interview is with Columbia High School head football coach Steve Jones. This will be Coach Jones' first year to coach at Columbia. He previously coached at Florence (MS) HS. This interview was conducted on May 14th.

Coach Jones, how about talking about players you have on your team that appear to be possible D-I prospects. The first player you can talk about is Cory Jones.
"He is 5-10.5, about 182. At the Tuscaloosa Nike Camp he ran a 4.50 forty. We went to a combine at LSU after that and he ran a 4.42 forty. He has actually ran a 4.4 for us. So he's a legit 4.4 guy. He benches 290 and squats 320. He will be a three-year starter. He is an excellent student.

"He has good open field-vision on the field. He is not a powerback, he is more of an open-field type runner. He has good hands. That is probably what makes him so good at returning kicks."

When did you first notice that he had a special gift on the football field?
"In the 9th grade the 9th grade quarterback got hurt. The 9th grade coaches put him in at quarterback and he really didn't know a lot about the position. But he ended up scoring three touchdowns and they ended up winning the game. I realized then that he had some talent. I already knew he could run because he ran track. Although he didn't really work hard in track - he was really getting ready for combines - he ran a 10.8 100 meters and a 22.0 in the 200 meters."

What are the college coaches telling you about Cory?
"Some are looking at him as a defensive back and kick returner. The others are going to look at him at offense first, possibly as a slotback or even a receiver. They say he makes things happen when he has the ball in his hands."

Talk about Rashod Powell, your big offensive lineman.
"He is at least 6-7. He might be 6-8. He is over 350. He is not fat. He is just a big, thick guy. He has quick feet. He is fast enough to play offensive line. I feel like he can play pro ball some day, however before playing D-I ball, he will have to go to Pearl River CC first due to academics. He can handle the academics but he just got behind his first couple of years."

Tell me a little more about what sets him apart from other offensive linemen other than his size.
"He moves as well as guys that I have had in the past that were 250 pounds. Normally, when you think of a 350 pound guy, you think of a big, fat guy with a big belly. He is not like that at all. He is like what you see on Sunday in the NFL. I have been to the Saints camp several times. He is bigger than a lot of their linemen and looks and moves just like those guys."

What does he bench and squat?
"He benches right at 300 pounds. We haven't tested them on the squat."

What do the college coaches that have come through say about him?
"They say he is unbelievable. They say he will play pro ball some day."

The third senior that I know about is Tony McKinney. Tell me a little about him.
"Tony is a fullback and linebacker. He will probably start at fullback and play a lot at linebacker. He is 6-0, 231. He ran a 4.5 at the combine at LSU. He has a 9-6 long jump and a 33 inch vertical leap. He also has unbelievable strength. At the combine at LSU, he benched 185 pounds 23 times. He has benched 390 before. He is all-around good athlete. He should have the academics. He is a definite D-I prospect."

What position do you expect him to play on the D-I level?
"He is definitely a fullback. He might be a tailback in an offense like the Mississippi State offense where it is more power-football oriented. He reminds me of Justin Griffith. I saw him in high school and he is just like that."

Do you have other seniors that can play on the college level?
"We have a youngster named Landon McClendon. He is an offensive tackle who is 6-3, 284. Then we have Nathan Van Horn. He is a 6-1, 240 pound offensive guard. Will Houston is another one who may be a two-way starter for us. He is 6-1, 230 and plays defensive tackle and offensive guard. All three are hard workers. The only drawback they might have is their height. A lot of college coaches like the 6-4 to 6-5 type offensive tackles and 6-2 to 6-3 offensive guards."

Do you have some underclassmen that you feel have a chance to play on the college level?
"We have four starting linebackers back from last year's semi-final team. All will be juniors next year. Donald Cooper is 6-2, 215. Alton Middleton is 5-9, 190. Those two guys are the inside linebackers. The two outside linebackers are Joseph Page and Kenny Brown. Both are about 185 and 6-0. All four of those guys started last year. They are going to end up being three-year starters.

"Ken Coleman will be a 10th grader next year. He is a super athlete. Because he plays different positions, I would classify him as an athlete. He, along with another guy, are working at quarterback. He is probably 5-8 to 5-9 and 170. He has very good speed. He runs track. He has run 10.8 in the 100 meters which is good for his age.

"Carl McKinney, Tony's brother, will be a 10th grader in the fall. He starts for us at defensive end and is the backup fullback. He is 225 and about 5-9. He runs about a 5.0 flat in the forty. He is a very tough kid who is very difficult to tackle. When we put him at defensive end, we had a hard time blocking him because he is so strong and has good feet."

Note: Many players physically develop later than others and there is no way to know this until it happens. Therefore, the players mentioned above may not be the only potential D-I prospects on the team.-Gene

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at

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