The changing role of Malin Jones

Will Malin Jones move to superback? Better question: should he?

On Wednesday, true freshman running back Warren Long earned several first-team reps. This development likely signifies another lost redshirt, with Long expected to play this weekend against Western Michigan. Far more interesting, though, are its complete implications.

They barely apply to Venric Mark, still listed as questionable on this week's injury report. Instead, we're left to evaluate the confusing status of Malin Jones—who should have earned the role now taken by Long. And we're watching closely.

It's more emergence than transformation, for now. Malin Jones played well on special teams in the first two weeks, but doesn't appear comfortable as a spread offense running back. That's nothing brand new, and yes, Warren Long technically "passed" him on the depth chart.

Here's the caveat: It looks from here (during practice) like Malin Jones is slowly developing into a change-of-pace H-back. With his clear versatility, this makes sense. He can catch passes, lay down blocks and help Northwestern win games in a creative manner.

Though he's not moving position groups as of now, an eventual transition makes sense. (Right now, it's a long way off.) Mark Szott and Jack Schwaba have not yet panned out, with true freshman Jayme Taylor the future option after Dan Vitale.

Frankly, Jones has little chance of competing for future running back snaps. Not only did Treyvon Green dispel worries with an excellent season opener, the Wildcats will only add to the stable in their 2014 recruiting class.

Four-star prospect Justin Jackson projects to be a long-term starter, with Auston Anderson and Solomon Vault (more of the Stephen Buckley-type) also heading to Evanston. Then, with Long fighting to be next year's number two behind Green, Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are forced to figure out how they can best use Jones.

NU could use added superback depth, as insurance and as another weapon for this clicking offense. Dan Vitale stomped opposing defenses in the first two weeks, and the two quarterbacks ably distributed the ball. Green held down the running back spot, and of course, Mike Trumpy presents an impressive backup option.

The Wildcats thrive on maximizing scholarships. Just last offseason, they moved Jack Konopka from superback to right tackle. Jones can excel in special teams reps, for now, but that opportunity can only grow with the correct usage.

Offensive coordinator Mick McCall made some incredible adjustments this offseason. It's no overstatement. He not only spearheaded an excellent attack, but made his array of weapons seem overwhelming. The skill position players–even without Mark–can drive opponents to near madness.

The changes continue. In terms of personnel, this game week has been influential. Long's redshirt is almost to certain to come off, and Malin Jones is left with a different role—one that's almost impossible to define.

Regardless of whether his roster listing begins with "RB" or "SB," though, Northwestern will always push for more.

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