Alizé Jones was a five-star prospect and the No. 2 prep tight end in the country out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas in 2014. Scout’s No. 32-ranked player in the country, Jones caught 41 passes for 930 yards (22.6-yard average) and 13 touchdowns as a senior for the national powerhouse Gaels.
In February ’15, Jones became the third Bishop Gorman alum to join the Fighting Irish football program, along with classmate/safety Nicco Fertitta and veteran offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, who would go on to become the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Blessed with 6-foot-4½, 240-pound size, Jones was measured with a 37-inch vertical jump while running a 4.67 time in the 40.
Jones started slowly during August camp, but quickly came on strong. He played in all 13 games, starting four. He made the first three receptions of his collegiate career in the third game of the year against Georgia Tech. Jones caught at least one pass in six of the last 12 games, including three each vs. Georgia Tech, UMass and USC.
Jones completed his rookie season with 13 receptions for 190 yards. He enters his sophomore year seeking his first collegiate touchdown. Jones worked at the W receiver position this spring in addition to his duties at tight end (Y).
• BEST-CASE SCENARIO
Jones has the skillset, particularly with the top three receivers from ‘15 gone, to emerge as Notre Dame’s top receiver. Torii Hunter Jr. figures to be the most likely candidate to pace the Irish in receptions in 2016, but Jones has the size and athleticism to serve as the top complement to Hunter while competing for the top spot on the chart. The possibilities expand the more the Irish flank Jones out at the W position.
• WORST-CASE SCENARIO
At worst in 2016, Jones should be one of the top two most attractive targets for the Irish quarterbacks. His ability to present matchup problems on linebackers when he’s playing the Y, and small cornerbacks when he’s aligned at the W, makes him a virtual lock to be one of the main options for quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire.
• CAREER COMPARISON
The list of great tight ends at Notre Dame is extensive. In terms of fanfare entering Notre Dame, Jones is on the same plane as former Irish great Derek Brown, who was an impact freshman for the 1988 national championship squad.
Brown, who was taller than Jones at a listed 6-foot-7, didn’t put up huge numbers with the Irish during an era when Lou Holtz’s ground game was king. But he did catch 12 passes for 150 yards and three scores as a freshman, and then added another 50 receptions for 749 yards and five touchdowns over his final three seasons with the Irish.
Brown would go on to become the No. 14 overall pick in the 1992 draft by the New York Giants. Jones has first-round ability as well.
• DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
Jones finished seventh on the 2016 squad in receptions with a modest 13. That isn’t indicative of just how good the five-star prospect out of Las Vegas can be. The shift to W this spring indicates this is a talent on the rise that needs to be accentuated in a variety of ways. He’s on pace to live up to his five-star billing.
• JONES AT HIS BEST
Jones’ star quality shined in back-to-back games in the middle of the ’15 season against USC at home and Temple on the road. His 35-yard reception (from WR Torii Hunter Jr.) helped set up what proved to be the go-ahead touchdown in a seven-play, 91-yard drive against the Trojans with nine minutes remaining.
Following a bye week, the Irish trailed the Owls by three with less than five minutes left at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. On first down from the Irish 38, DeShone Kizer found Jones on a crossing route for a 45-yard gain. Two plays later, Kizer found Will Fuller for a 17-yard touchdown as the Irish claimed a 24-20 victory and improved to 7-1.
• QUOTES OF NOTE
“He’s got to be better, more consistent with his hands. But he’s a big target, he’s physical and athletic, and he’s a guy that we’ve got to try to find a role for. He can’t be in a rotation as a third tight end on the field. That’s pretty clear. (We need to find) a place where we can get him in and get him on the field because he’s a talented player.”
-- Brian Kelly
“I’m really starting to get comfortable with the offense and playing on the big stage of the college level. When I’m out there, I feel like I have a little groove to me. I’ve been telling guys I feel like I’m back in high school again.”
-- Alizé Jones