There's a saying about bad news, and how it comes it clusters too often. When it rains, it pours. You may have felt that way with Stanford's losses in October and injury setbacks, but now it appears that good news is coming down just as fast and furious.
Luke Powell breaks his first electric punt return of the year. The redzone offense comes back to life. And the defense tallies one of the highest single-game sack totals since the Big Game beat-downs of the Tom Holmoe era. Now for some long range good news that struck today, as standout Ohio recruit Ray Jones gave his verbal commitment to Buddy Teevens. Jones is the fourth commitment for Stanford, and it came as no surprise after he received the long-awaited word a week ago that he was accepted by the University's admissions office.
"Stanford has always been my first choice," the 6'1" 206-pound athlete confirms. "My second choice wasn't any better."
That final comment references his official visit to Boston College he took this past weekend. It was his first official trip to any school, but with a firm top two in his mind and a previous unofficial visit experience to Stanford last summer in his back pocket, he was ready for a decision.
"It was hard turning down offers from some pretty good schools in the Big 10, SEC and ACC," Jones comments. "And the ACC is about to become a pretty good conference. But I know Stanford will be really good. They are very young right now but have a great recruiting class they are working on. We're going to do something special. I want to help."
"The hardest part of all this was staying away from the football factories," he continues. "But when you are accepted to Stanford, it becomes an easy choice. Staying away from the football factories was the hardest part, but it was also the smartest part."
An unexpected difficulty for Jones came toward the tail end of his recruitment, as he navigated Stanford's admissions process. The premier student-athlete had completed his application materials weeks ago but found that he gave a short answer on the required long-answer essay. That faux pas delayed his final admissions decision until he was able to submit an additional writing sample (a recent graded essay). The delay was a tough thing to bear for the eager Stanford recruit, but he credits the Cardinal coaches for their support.
"Coach [Peter] McCarty has been great all the way through this," the Ohio standout states. "The admissions process took a little while but that was out of their control. Coach [Wayne] Moses was great, too. They've been good at not trying to sell me too hard. They knew how I liked Stanford and didn't shove it down my throat."
Jones talks about having a longstanding love affair with Stanford that predates any recruiting by this coaching staff. "Going back to my early childhood, Stanford was my favorite school - before offers or a chance to play college football came along," he reveals. "Just the school - the name speaks for itself. It really is the best of both worlds - football and academics."
His feelings grew even stronger when he visited Stanford for the first time, late in June for the Cardinal's overnight football camp. He was not disappointed.
"The campus was gorgeous. I liked the setting of it," Jones remembers. "And it was a lot different than any other place I'd ever been. The kids there were like me. And I want to be someplace where other guys are like me and have the same aspirations and motivations. I wasn't surprised, though. I knew that if you were interested in Stanford, you had to be on the same page as me. You also are looking for the best of both worlds."
Jones got the good word on his admissions acceptance a week ago but took the BC visit before committing. For a recruit who had a lifelong dream of being a Cardinal, it might have surprised some that he did not commit on the spot. After all, he professed to recruiting services last spring that he held Stanford #1 before they even offered him. Was he miffed by the admissions delay and had second thoughts?
"The admissions process is tough but it solidifies the reputation of the University," the Columbus Academy star replies. "I don't know of any other place where you have to apply like that. That's the place I want to be. I want some place that gives me the best opportunities on and off the field."
"I think I took the necessary time," he continues. "Some guys commit really early and others take it out to Signing Day. I just wanted to take the appropriate time that I needed."
With recruiting behind him, Jones is particularly excited at the prospect of a silent phone on his wall at home. His Columbus Academy Vikings are now 9-2 on the season and just blasted their way through their opening playoff game Friday with a 49-6 victory. Their only two losses of the year came against large division powerhouse programs. In their own division, Columbus Academy has a great shot to play four more weeks contend for the Ohio state championship at the end of the month.
For his part, Jones is starting at both tailback and "Sam" outside linebacker. On offense he totaled 1103 yards on 113 rushes in the regular season, for 19 scores and a 9.8 yard per-carry average. Friday he added three more touchdowns on 12 carries for 120 yards. Note the small number of carries, which is a result of the split duties he shares with his fullback in the school's wing-T offense. He describes his running style for those who have not had the chance to scrutinize his game film:
"I have the size and speed that I can run around or over people," the 6'1" athlete begins. "But the thing I take the greatest pride in is my vision. I believe I play really smart and find the seams. It's amazing to me how far I've come, where I know where the hole and cut is going to be. It's automatic for me now. My vision is my greatest asset."
On defense, Jones projects as a college defensive back and most likely a safety. But he moved from cornerback to linebacker for the Vikings this year to bring more physical play to his team's defense. The effect on his defensive abilities has been eye-opening.
"Playing linebacker this year has made me so much more physical," he reports. "The coaches moved me back to corner for two games this year when they needed help there, and the position was so much easier than before. I'm more physical. Wide receivers don't like physical corners."
With only a handful of playoff games remaining in his high school football career, Jones will soon be looking at an off-season of training and track before he comes out to Stanford next summer. He had played basketball his first two years of high school, and quite well at that, but last year devoted the winter to weight training. The 206-pounder in fact competed in the Ohio state weight lifting championships and took a surprising third place overall.
"It was pretty funny actually," Jones recalls. "All the other guys there were pure weight lifters and they didn't look like athletes at all. They had their lifting outfits on and we just showed up in our street clothes. I'm like the smallest guy at any event."
He placed 2nd in the bench, 3rd in the squat and 1st in the dead lift. His personal bests through this last summer are 525 in the squat, 305 in the power clean and 325 pounds on the bench.
Jones also runs track in the spring, a time when his weight will typically drop down to 190 pounds. He runs a 49.8 400 and 22.1 200. He does not usually run the 100, but can run a 10.8 in the event. The Columbus Academy senior also throws the discus and has a best of 163 feet.
"I'm gonna work my butt off," the new Stanford commit says about the coming off-season. "The best person will play at Stanford, and I have no problem redshirting if I'm not that guy next fall. I also have no problem playing if the coaches think I'm ready."
Ray Jones could project as either a running back or safety at Stanford, though I would imagine his first opportunities for playing time could come on defense. But his ability to play on either side of the ball is very real and was a driving factor behind the coaching staff's decision to offer him. In a class expected to be small, that versatility makes his commitment one of tremendous value to Stanford. "I'm wide open and just want to play," Jones comments.
The Columbus Academy star had over 30 Division I offers, including notables such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, Boston College, Maryland and Stanford. He will still take his official visit to see the Cardinal campus the weekend of December 5.
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