Free Safety not Freely Given by Jones

With the emergence of freshman free safety Quinton Andrews, West Virginia again has a solid two-deep at the slot. It also has a battle that could rage throughout the season, if for no other reason than the incumbent isn't listening to media and fans.

Abraham Jones is a three-year reserve with a one-shot deal to start for a season in the secondary. After backing-up the graduated Jahmile Addae, Jones has anticipated his senior season as a time to showcase both his talent and growth as a player. But just two weeks into spring, the media bandwagon shifted to Andrews, whose big hits rocked wide receivers and provided fodder for newspapers.

What was ignored, both by media and fans ready to anoint Andrews the future and the present, was that Jones didn't relent and re-challenged for the spot immediately. He wasn't given much credit for his gumption and will, and it's those abilities he'll need again – along with his prototypical physical style and experience – as secondary coach Tony Gibson tests both players in fall two-a-days.

"I don't think much about (any rivalry)," said Jones, who has gone from 195 to 205 pounds since January without losing his 4.46 40-yard dash speed. "Hopefully I can come in and get the job done. It's along season, and Quinton is able to step in, too."

Jones, nicknamed "Ham," recorded 14 tackles last season, seven against Virginia Tech. His main asset, besides having actually played in games while Andrews has not, is speed. The 6-1 Alabama native was a sprinter for West Virginia's track team before it disbanded, and his straight ahead speed prevents him from getting beat by almost any receiver.

"There are differences in how you use the speed in both sports," he said. "In football, the speed is in bursts. It's more explosive speed, which we both have. In track, it's straight ahead. There is no cutting. So it is a transition. But speed is something that you can't teach. I can still run, and it's something that I miss, so I could see myself going back to track after football is over."

Jones is also a main contributor on special teams and has experience on offensive, having worked with both the wideouts and safeties in 2004. He had 23 tackles, mostly on special teams, in 2003 and has graduated with an athletic coaching degree. Andrews, at 5-11 and 210 pounds, has a naturally bigger body and seems to be head hunting on a continuous basis, even drilling Pat White during spring drills – which drew brief fisticuffs between players on both sides of the ball.

"(Quinton's) not shy about putting his face into you," said head coach Rich Rodriguez, who had to break up the scuffle. "If I had anybody that was shy about doing that then I don't think they belong in this program. Quinton is a guy that can bring it and I think he likes hitting. Some guys will do it because they have to do it and some guys really like doing it. I think he really likes it."

"And I like the competition," Jones said.

The battle could come down to who works harder and more effectively during summer conditioning, which is often when teams and players are molded. Andrews will also need to gain more understanding into the 3-3-5 odd stack and learn to plant a shoulder where it's needed, not wherever he can; Jones, for his part, wants to continue to gain in size without a speed dropoff.

"I think it gives us more depth," Jones said of the competition. "We can both use our speed to get to the football, we like to hit. I know what I am capable of, what I can do."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories