It became clear last February when Stanford signed just one wide receiver in the 2004 class that obtaining high level wideouts in the '05 class would become a top priority. The Cardinal's tradition of passing offensive acumen hails in no small part from the long lineage of signal callers - hence the "Quarterback U" moniker - but there is an equivalent need for receiving playmakers to complete those aerial acrobatics. When you look at the rankings, the top wideout on Stanford's recruiting radar in this 2005 class is 6'0" 175-pound athlete Daryl Jones from Spring High School in Spring, Texas. Jones is a three-star recruit and the #63 player in the Southwest region according to TheInsiders.com.
If Spring High School sounds familiar, then you likely recall a Cardinal recruit from the Houston suburban school a year ago in the form of running back Drew Gause. The two-sport tailback and baseballer was given a good look by the Card coaches but never secured a scholarship offer. Jones was offered by Stanford in his junior year and has consistently felt the attention of a premier recruiting target since.
"When I've talked to Stanford, they tell me that they want freshmen who can come in and play right away," Jones describes. "They've told me for a while that they believe that I am that kind of athlete. I want to go somewhere I can play right away and make an impact. Stanford definitely has a top education program, too, in case sports doesn't work out for me after college."
In his junior season, Jones caught 55 passes for 850 yards and nine touchdowns, though he expects more out of himself and the passing offense in this season year. Gause was the focal point of the Lions' offense in 2003, keeping the ball on the ground rather than taking to the air.
"We have a new offense this year - no huddle," the senior wideout says of his high school team. "We had a pretty good running back last year in Drew, but we should air it out a lot more this year."
In the season opener, that looked to be the case, with Jones catching eight passes for 122 yards and two scores. He reached the endzone a third time on a 28-yard run, leading the way for the Spring's 37-20 victory. But the Lions ran the ball 38 times for 239 yards in that contest and have consistently focused on the ground game since. In the team's second game, a 49-0 romp that put Jones and several starters on the sidelines early in the second half, they handed the ball off 33 times for 239 yards. Only 17 passes were attempted, and just seven were completed. Jones caught three balls for 33 yards, but his playmaking ability could not be denied.
The senior athlete scored on a dazzling 89-yard punt return on special teams, and he also ran in a six-yard touchdown on a direct snap play. Spring's third game of the year, played just last week, unfortunately held a similar offensive plan. The passing game completed 7-of-14 attempts while the Lions ran the ball 30 times for 215 yards. Jones caught three balls again, this time for 36 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown. It remains to be seen if and when the passing attack will come back, but you can't expect a 3-0 team who has scored nearly 40 points per game to change its spots soon.
Jones is physically in the best shape of his life, and for the first time in three years he is playing without injury. In his sophomore season while playing defense, he laid a hit on a ballcarrier so hard that Jones' arm went numb. He felt like he could continue playing and went the remainder of the season. As fall faded to winter and spring, Jones turned his attention that sophomore year to his other passion, baseball. But he was unable to pick up a baseball bat and had to sit out the entire season. The strength returned over time in his shoulder and he considered himself 100% for his junior football season, but at its end he once again could not handle a baseball bat. On Christmas Eve, he had repair surgery on what turned out to be a torn labrum. Now that he is truly healed and rehabilitated, the utility athlete feels more ready than ever to break games wide open on the gridiron.
"I've gotten a lot stronger and a lot faster," elaborates Jones, who has run a 4.45 40. "I spent a lot of time this year reading defenses. I feel like whatever you line up against me now, I know how to adjust and beat you. I'll take on anything. I wish I could see more press coverage, actually. I like hurting corners up close and then breaking the deep routes; I can get open pretty quick."
His shoulder injury and infrequent touches on the football field have not deterred college recruiters in the slightest. Jones received 15 phone calls on September 1, the first day schools were allowed to call this fall. His scholarship offers include Stanford, Nebraska, Texas A&M, TCU, Air Force, Northwestern, Duke and Georgia Tech. He is receiving heavy attention from Division I schools and pro scouts in baseball as well.
"My top five are Stanford, Nebraska, TCU, Georgia Tech and Northwestern," the Spring standout declares. "Stanford is definitely in my top three. Their combination of academics and athletics are number one in the country, and that's where I will go if I decide I want the combo. But if I decide I just want athletics, it would be Nebraska because they changed their offense. I like that they have moved to the West Coast Offense and want to air it out a little bit."
Jones also says that Stanford is the only official visit of which he is certain, though no date has yet been set. He is in no hurry to take his official trips, preferring to wait a little while.
"I'd like to take them close to the end of the football season," he explains. "That way I can minimize my practice conflicts. I can also take a look at any new schools that offer during my season."
Jones names Texas, Miami, Florida and Florida State as programs he has admired and from which would like to receive offers. The Longhorns are always one to watch, as Stanford has suffered several defeats in recent years to Mack Brown for in-state battles.
"I've heard from UT a lot and I went to their junior days," the hopeful Spring senior comments. "They just haven't offered yet. If they did offer, though, it's not like it would be automatic that I'd go there. They just signed four freshmen receivers who were Top 100 recruits last year."
So Stanford and his other suitors will play the waiting game this fall, until Jones embarks on his official visits and moves toward a later commitment. In the meantime, not only does he have a lot of football on his plate, but he also has the Stanford admissions application process. Jones carries a 4.1 GPA on a five-point scale at Spring High School, but he has yet to take the SAT. He intended to sit down for the standardized test last June, but baseball playoffs got in the way. Jones is signed up for the upcoming October 9 SAT date.
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