IN THE HUDDLE: Courtney Jones

While the Panhandle region of Florida is often underexposed and not a place recruiting services roam, this is the year that will be hard to keep away. One of the examples of the outstanding talent is Mississippi State-bound running back Courtney Jones of Pensacola High.

During the spring and into the summer, www.floridakids.us will bring you our IN THE HUDDLE segments with football players throughout the state of Florida.

These are similar to the evaluations we pass on to the hundreds of colleges who visit our website, call us on the phone and correspond via e-mail.

Here is another top football player to keep an eye on this season – and beyond.

PLAYER: Courtney Jones
POSITION: RB
SCHOOL: Pensacola.
HEAD COACH: Mike Bennett.
HEIGHT: 6-2
WEIGHT: 195
SPEED: 4.56
www.floridakids.us Pre-Spring Rating: 14.

Panhandle football. There's nothing quite like sitting down to watch athletes who have the opportunity to drive an hour and compare their talents with players from Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. This is where recruiting services dare to go, and often miss out on some gems that surface.

They are not just the Emmitt Smiths and Derrick Brooks, but also come by the name of Ty Wise, D.J. Norris and Alex Gordon.

It's where Don Sharpe and his Pensacola Woodham Titans ruled the early 80s, and where Carl Madison and Dwight Thomas built programs who could stand toe-to-toe with the best.

It's where a Mickey Lindsey could churn out talent year after year at Pace High, and when Milton and Niceville have to turn fans away because the record crowds have filled the stadiums to capacity.

Panhandle football is Choctaw and Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Gulf Breeze and Pine Forest. It's where Walton and Panama City make life tough on the visitors, and where Pensacola Senior High boasts enough talent to compete with anyone. Welcome to Florida's talented panhandle where this year, things continue to change, and having a top 20 player is the norm rather than a major surprise.

We have often spoke of LaBrandon Glover, a gifted linebacker, who established himself as one of the best in Florida for the Class of 2006. Now, we will talk about his teammate at Pensacola – Courtney Jones.

So good is this star-quality back who wears the No. 34 like Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, but reminds so many of another great Georgia high school back who would go on to Tennessee and then to the Baltimore Ravens. Jones looks so much like Jamal Lewis did back in his high school days, where he was simply one of the best ever to play in Georgia.

Jones was a hit from the first time he carried the ball. So gifted, an up-and-coming program like Mississippi State made it so enticing to the elusive back that he committed before he ever had the opportunity to experience the recruiting process.

"Courtney is such a tremendous runner," said Bennett. "He can run north/south and is equally as impressive getting outside. The one thing that really has everyone excited is that he has so much to learn and hasn't come close to reaching his potential.

STRENGTHS: Whether watching him live, standing six feet from him or viewing film clips, Jones does things that leaves you shaking your head. He is strong, has tremendous balance and can change directions so well for a bigger back.

As I usually do when evaluating talent, I take out a pad and start jotting things down. Watching him for three straight plays, it became very clear why the Bulldogs made such a push to try and sway him on his camp visit.

Not only is he an exceptional runner, but his blocking skills have improved so much from the first time I saw him late in his sophomore season while watching Glover. This is also an athlete who accelerates when he gets to the hole.

His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, drawing a linebacker to cover him, gives Jones another notch in his already talented belt.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO WORK ON: On a few plays, there was a sense that he wasn't convinced that he could run away from the defenders. Somewhere down the line, a coach or a fellow player must of told him that players with his size aren't suppose to run like he does. I agree with Coach Bennett about him not reaching his potential yet. When he does, watch out!

To me, this is as good as any back in the state. He is durable and strong, and is a future 25-30 carry per game back even in the Southeastern Conference.

IN CONCLUSION: There are many coaches who tell me so many things, but when Mike Bennett and his defensive line coach Bob Schneider tell me about a player, they are usually right on target, and with Courtney, both have been singing his praises for almost two years now!

If you have film (VHS/DVD) or a color photo of a player and you want us to get him aboard in our INSIDE THE HUDDLE series, simply e-mail us at FloridaKids1@hotmail.com or forward to Florida Kids, P.O. Box 3181, Hallandale Beach, Fl. 33009.

Here are some more IN THE HUDDLE segments that you may enjoy reading as well:

IN THE HUDDLE - BRYAN THOMAS
IN THE HUDDLE - JORDAN DALRYMPLE
IN THE HUDDLE - PRESTON PARKER
IN THE HUDDLE - SABBATH JOSEPH
IN THE HUDDLE - PRESTON PARKER
IN THE HUDDLE - RYAN KHAWLY
IN THE HUDDLE - REGGIE ODOM
IN THE HUDDLE - KEITH HOUSTON
IN THE HUDDLE - C.J. SPILLER
IN THE HUDDLE - RILEY COOPER
IN THE HUDDLE - JAMES JAMISON
IN THE HUDDLE - DESMOND GEE
IN THE HUDDLE - RICKY GARY
IN THE HUDDLE - LAURANCE MARIUS
IN THE HUDDLE - LABRANDON GLOVER
IN THE HUDDLE - RICHARD JACKSON
IN THE HUDDLE - KENRICK ELLIS

Sun State Football Top Stories