Last year, Jack Jones studied his Long Beach (Calif.) Poly teammate Iman Marshall. Jones watched his moves. He eyed his technique. He repeated his drills. He followed in the footsteps of the training Marshall endured to make himself better.
Like Marshall, Jones is now a five-star defensive back recruit. Though they have different body types, both have the potential to be the top cornerback in their high school class when all is said and done. Marshall was the No. 1 cornerback recruit in the nation last year. Jones is the No. 2 athlete recruit in the country this season.
But Jones didn’t just follow the path that Marshall blazed on the field where both showcased elite coverage skills and versatility to shift back to safety when needed. Jones is also following Marshall’s recruiting path. Like Marshall, he has had a very open, national recruitment.
He has taken visits to schools around the country and has some national powerhouses vying hard for his services. His final five schools include two of this year's national semifinalists, Alabama and Oklahoma, along with the SEC’s Texas A&M and the two local Los Angeles schools.
But don’t expect Jones to take an official visit to either USC or UCLA. He learned from Marshall to use his official visits to explore and immerse himself in different parts of the country to see if something fits his desires better than Southern California. He can unofficially visit either of the local schools practically any day he desires, but you can’t necessarily wake up on a whim and go check out College Station, Texas or even Tempe, Ariz. where he took an official visit to Arizona State in September.
Marshall also gave Jones a guideway for announcing his ultimate decision. Jones plans to have a ceremony at Long Beach Poly on National Signing Day while releasing a video announcing the decision, just as Marshall did.
That means he has to come to a conclusion a little sooner than some of his fellow five-star prospects he’s battling against this week during practice leading up to the U.S. Army All-America Bowl in order for the video to be shot. Jones told the group producing the announcement video that he wouldn’t have a decision until late January, so he knows he has until then.
“They were fine with that, so they told me they are going to come back late January. So late January, I will really know where I’m going, where I’m attending.”
Could Jones ultimately follow the lead of Marshall and rejoin him in the secondary at USC? Even with the recent coaching staff turnover, it’s still a real possibilty.
“Coach Helton is still there. Coach Tee Martin is still there. And of course, my guys still go there, so that’s why they are still [in my top schools].”
One of the coaches not there is a defensive backs coach. USC also is still lacking an offensive coordinator. Jones’ expedited timeline due to video production and the defensive coaching staff vacancies definitely play against the Trojans, but Jones hasn’t focused on those concerns.
“I really don’t try to bug them about [the coaching openings] because of the simple fact that I’m not there and I don’t attend that college. I would expect the athletes that go to that college to do that, but I just try to sit back and let everything play out.”
Jones does have style-of-play preferences for his potential position coach.
“I would say man-to-man. That’s what people want to see, right? That’s what makes the game exciting, man-on-man. See what corner can cover the best and I feel like I got some pretty good coverage. Man-to-man, let me be on the island and let me work.
“Other than that, I feel like SC, they know where they want to go with it, so they’ll pick the right coach or whatever works for them.”
While the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Jones has no plans to officially visit USC or UCLA, he did foresee a situation that would require an unofficial visit. If a new defensive backs coach was hired, Jones will take the drive north to the USC campus.
“Most likely. I would say so because I want to see how he is as a coach and see how he is as a person off the field, how his personality is. There’s more than just football when you pick a college.”
That's why it's good to have a friend that can shed some light on the path.