We only have a few days left before kick-off and we only have a few players left to rank for the 2013 season. After our #6 player, TJ Jones, we have five more players to profile and full intend on rolling out the top 5 before kick-off on Saturday.
TJ Jones was a one-time Stanford commitment before switching his pledge to that of his father’s alma mater. Jones, the son of Andre Jones – a member of the 1988 Notre Dame national championship team – enrolled early at Notre Dame once he committed and made an immediate impact.
Jones was a standout during his first spring practice in 2010 and forced his way onto the field as Notre Dame’s #3 wide receiver right out of the gate during his freshman season. It didn’t take long for Jones to make noise on the field either. He scored a touchdown in each of his first games of his career including a 53 yard bomb from Dayne Crist were the overzealous frosh may have toss the ball away before technically crossing the goal-line.
After his torrid start to his career, Jones slowed down a little, but has improved his performance in each of the last three seasons. Over the last three years, Jones’s reception total increased from 23 to 38 to 50 last year as a junior.
As Jones enters his final season at Notre Dame, he finds himself a captain for the offense and a player primed for a big season.
Why TJ Jones could be ranked higher
Jones is a very talented athlete and if his career trajectory continues at the pace he has established the last three season, he is in store for a big season in 2013. Unlike his running mate at wide, DaVaris Daniels, Jones is not as much of a deep threat but rather thrives on taking quick passes and turning them into longer gains after the catch meaning he won’t be as effected by having Tommy Rees at quarterback as Daniels will be.
In fact, Tommy Rees’s game could be more suitable for Jones since Rees has been a more accurate passer in the short to intermediate game than Golson was a year ago.
Notre Dame ran the ball a lot last year with Everett Golson at quarterback, but it would not surprise anyone if the Irish threw the ball more this year with defenses likely perfectly satisfied with stacking the line and forcing Rees to beat them. If that happens, Jones will have a huge senior season and will post improvements across the board in his receiving totals again this year.
Why TJ Jones could be ranked lower
One thing standing in Jones’s way of a truly huge senior season is the depth Notre Dame has at wide receiver. With Daniels, Chris Brown, Corey Robinson, James Onwaulu, and CJ Prosise all capable of playing meaningful minutes this fall the Irish are going to be able to spread the field and distribute the ball better than they have in the past.
It has been a long, long time since Notre Dame has had a receiving corps that is this deep and talented from top to bottom. The group may lack a truly elite receiver like a Jeff Samardzija, a Golden Tate, or a Michael Floyd; but across the board Notre Dame hasn’t had a group of receivers this deep and talented in many years – if ever.
With all of that depth, Jones might not see as many passes thrown his way as the Irish look to keep defenses spread out with multiple receiver sets. Jones could have an excellent season that doesn’t quite show up in his stat line when all is said and done.
What would a successful season in 2013 be for TJ Jones?
Given the depth the Irish have at receiver and some of the challenges they will face with Rees as the starting quarterback, any improvement for Jones on his 2012 performance should be considered a successful season. That would mean 50+ catches, 650+ yards, and 5 or so touchdowns.
All of those goals should be completely reachable for Jones and in fact he will likely surpass them this season. By the time the Irish cap of their bowl game this year, Jones should be around 60 catches, 750 yards, and have at least 6 touchdowns. He is more than capable of putting up those numbers and anything less will mean that either Jones got hurt or the Irish offense took a step backwards this season.
Right now, CBS is projecting Jones as a 5th-6th round pick, but with a big senior season, he could play his way up draft boards because is will turn some heads with his measurables at the combine.
The rest of our countdown so far:
#7 – DaVaris Daniels – WR
#8 – Chris Watt – OG
#9 – Sheldon Day – DL
#10 – George Atkinson – RB
#11 – Keivarae Russell - CB
#12 – Matthias Farley – S
#13 – Troy Niklas – TE
#14 – Tommy Rees – QB
#15 – Amir Carlisle – RB
#16 - Danny Spond – OLB
#17 – Dan Fox – ILB
#18 – Jarrett Grace – ILB
#19 – Greg Bryant – RB
#20 – Christian Lombard – RT
#21 – Elijah Shumate – S
#22 – Jaylon Smith – OLB
#23 – Ishaq Williams – OLB/DE
#24 – Max Redfield – S
#25 – CJ Prosise – WR