TJ Jones made an immediate impact at Notre Dame as a true freshman in 2010. After enrolling early for the spring semester, Jones earned a starting role during spring ball and ended up catching a touchdown pass in his first career game against Purdue. A week later, Jones picked up his second career touchdown with a three catch, 73 yard performance against Michigan in Notre Dame’s heartbreaking, last minute loss to the Wolverines.
Jones cooled off a little the rest of his freshman season, but from day one it was apparent that Jones possessed some big play potential. In the game against Michigan, Jones got behind the Wolverine defense to haul in a 53 yard touchdown from Dayne Crist.
It would take another six weeks before he picked up his third career touchdown, but it was apparent very early on that Jones had the skillet necessary to excel in Brian Kelly’s offense and he has been a consistent presence at wide receiver for Notre Dame since then.
TJ Jones’s steady improvement each year
Over the last three years, we have seen steady improvement out of TJ Jones. Since becoming a mainstay in the Notre Dame wide receiver rotation as a true freshman in 2010, Jones has improved on his reception and touchdown totals each season.
- 2010: 23 receptions, 306 yards, 3 touchdowns
- 2011: 38 receptions, 366 yards, 3 touchdowns
- 2012: 50 receptions, 649 yards, 4 touchdowns
Every year that Jones has been at Notre Dame his receptions, yards, and touchdowns have either increased or at least stayed the same from the previous season. From his freshman to sophomore season his catch total increased 65% and then increased another 32% from his sophomore to junior seasons.
Can TJ Jones take the next step in 2013?
Despite a very solid career to this point, TJ Jones has not been able to take the next step to this point in his career. His numbers and progression over the last three years suggest that is trending in that direction, but so far he has been more steady than stellar despite showing flashes of true playmaking ability.
Through three seasons, Jones has yet to record a 100 receiving yard performance or a multiple touchdown game even though he has 11 career touchdowns and 1,321 career receiving yards.
It is going to be interesting to see if Jones is able to continue is steady improvement this year with Tommy Rees back at quarterback with Everett Golson sidelined this fall. With Rees as his primary quarterback in 2011, Jones’s yards per catch dropped from 13.0 as a freshman to 9.6 as a sophomore before jumping back up to 13.6 last year with Golson at quarterback.
It should also be noted that in the two games that Tommy Rees played extensively in last year – Michigan and BYU – Jones recorded his lowest reception totals with just two in each contest although he did average 18.75 yards per catch in those games with 75 yards on 4 receptions.
Defense have typically dropped eight men into coverage with Rees at quarterback which has limited Jones’s effectiveness in the past. Jones excels at those quick routes that allow him to get the all in his hands quickly and make things happen in the open field. With Golson at quarterback Jones was at times deadly effective at those routes. Can the same happen in 2012 with Rees at quarterback?
One difference for Jones and Rees this year will be that Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin will have the entire summer to plan around Rees as Notre Dame’s quarterback – something they weren’t able to do in 2011 and 2012 since Rees lost out on the starting quarterback derbies both summers. With all of fall camp to modify their offense around Rees and his strengths/weaknesses they should be better prepared for what defenses will attempt to do to slow the Irish offense this fall.
TJ Jones as a runner?
One area where we have not seen Jones involved much in the Irish offense over the last three seasons has been as a threat to run the ball on reverses, end arounds, etc. In fact, Jones has just one career carry for eight yards as he heads into his senior season.
Given the questions Notre Dame has at running back and the challenges the Irish could face if defenses have the same success limiting Notre Dame’s big play potential with Rees at quarterback as they have had in the past, Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin might have to get creative in manufacturing some offense this year. One of those ways could be getting Jones some touches as runner.
The one area that Jones has really excelled in has been on wide receiver screens and other short routes where he can get the ball quickly and get into the open field. Kelly and company haven’t found ways to get him many carries as a runner to this point in his career, but given his skill set, it would be a shame if we didn’t see him get a few more carries in his final season.
TJ Jones has shown that he has big play ability in the past, but 2013 should be the season that we see the speedy Georgia native transform from a solid, steady contributor to a legit playmaker whether it be through the air or on the ground. A 60 catch, 850+ yard, 6 touchdown season should not be out of the question at all for him this year.
Previous Posts in this Seriees