2015 Recruiting: Reuben Jones

Submitted by Brian on July 17th, 2015 at 12:11 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson.

       
Lakeland, FL – 6'3", 225
       

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Scout 3*, NR overall
#145 DE
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#27 SDE, #69 FL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#58 DE, #106 FL
24/7 3*, NR overall
#66 SDE, #187 FL
Other Suitors Nebraska, MSU, UL, Iowa
YMRMFSPA Mario Ojemudia
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Invented a sandwich. Thinks you should call Tyree Kinnel CHOPMAN.

Film

The other Florida defensive end in this recruiting class is a trivia answer now and endeavors to become something more than that: Reuben Jones was the First Harbaugh Commit.

It's rash to project program qualities from one coach's take on one recruit, but let's do it anyway. Jones is the kind of guy Harbaugh's going after, because this Rivals article with his coach reveals that…

"Sometimes his desire to be challenged drove me crazy as a football coach. There were some classes that he was taking and he was so locked into his honors classes and AP courses that he'd stay up to 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning to take care of homework and deal with everything in his life. Some of the AP classes were really kicking his butt but he would never get out of them.

"We talked to his mom and he was adamant that he was going to stay in those classes. Once his senior year rolled around he got out of the AP classes and hung in there with the honors classes to make it a little easier on him. His big thing is that he just loves a challenge. He wants to be challenged in everything he does. You can't tell Reuben that he can't do something. He will work hard enough to make sure to show you that he can do it."

…Jones is crazy like Harbaugh. Like Keith Washington, this is a recruit who does not have fancy stars. He does have the approval of Bo Pelini, Mark Dantonio, and Jim Harbaugh—all guys who know a defensive end when they see one. The scouting below is not going to be enthralling, but keep that in mind before you get too down.

Jones burst on to the scene through sheer chance. He grabbed a Rivals camp invite because it was going on at his high school and made the most of his opportunity, blowing through every offensive lineman put opposite him. Rivals ranked him just below five star Byron Cowart on the day and he nailed down his first offers. Analyst Woody Womack on his performance:

"We really liked him, especially in a camp setting because he's so fast off the ball. He's long and lean, and really gives bigger slower guys a hard time with explosion off the edge. In a camp setting, he doesn't lose many reps at all."

That made him into a high major recruit, albeit not a highly touted one. He did lock down two offers from teams you may be familiar with, eventually committing to Nebraska over Michigan State in November. That was just two weeks before Bo Pelini was controversially axed. He was not shy when asked to react:

"I've called players on the team, I've called recruits and we're all talking about what we're going to do," he said. "A lot of guys are saying they want to open up their recruitment. Nebraska is probably going to lose this class because they don't know what they're doing."

He put himself back on the market shortly thereafter, coming up with the most reasonable "committed but looking" explanation in the history of the genre:

Jones was asked if he still wants to be listed as a commitment to Nebraska and he replied: "Yeah, as of right now. Because I don't want to de-commit and be looking crazy if I end up going to Nebraska."

Michigan got in touch through DJ Durkin, he visited, he flipped, and Harbaugh had his first commit.

In Jones, Michigan has acquired another defensive end they'll have to put a bunch of weight on and then see what they've got. Usually such prospects come with universal praise about their explosiveness because that's what gets an undersized guy major college looks. In Jones's case the scouting is more mixed. On the one hand, here's a scouting report from a Nebraska site after his commit:

Jones off of the edge can just get up the field faster than the offensive tackle can kickstep and just runs around the lineman. You see the speed when he shoots the C gap and again when he lines up at the three and basically comes free (running back tries to pick him up).

And ESPN's evaluation is one of those that strenuously disagrees with its ranking of "generic three star":

We see a prospect with tight space and change of direction mobility; does an outstanding job of pursuing the football. … can play with strength at the point of attack, shedding blockers, fighting pressure and working back to the football; this guy doesn't get stuck on blocks. … dominant pass rusher with the explosive first step needed to get even and blow pass offensive tackles; plays with a low center of gravity which allows him to squeeze the top of the pocket. Displays the straight on power needed to knock blockers back on their heels; combines active feet and hand quickness to change up and work back to the inside when seemingly stymied.

On the other, 247's Clint Brewster:

Not the most fleet-footed but Jones has solid straight-line speed down the field. …not much finesse in his game or pure athleticism or lateral agility. More of a heavy-footed guy. … Very solid burst off the ball and can explode through the quarterback or ball carriers. Excellent tenacity. … plays with outstanding toughness and finds a way to win against the offensive tackle.

I am not a scout but I watched the Hudl film in an effort to have an opinion on this divide. I come down on the more reserved end of the spectrum. Jones does have some burst, but even in the highlights it seems like the tackle has coped with it and will push Jones wide of the pocket. His hits and sacks off the edge rush usually come in situations where his pursuit and motor become relevant.

Jones does have a surprising ability to hold up in the run game, something that an opposing coach highlighted in a Tim Sullivan article:

"He was very, very physical at defensive end. He plays the run very well but he has the great speed off the edge. A lot of times we'd double-team him with a tight end or an h-back.

"He doesn't get blown off the ball. He's very explosive and very strong even when getting double teamed. He's going to hold his ground on the line of scrimmage and you are going to have to try and get around him but that's where his quickness comes in. He's tough to handle."

It was odd watching a 220 pound DE prospect and being considerably more impressed by his work as a DT, but here we are.

Jones is going to be an excellent early indicator of Harbaugh's ability to find and develop talent. This is a thing he is excellent at doing, and other than the AP classes the most impressive thing on his resume is the attention he drew from guys who have made three-star DEs into killers.

There's work to do here, as Jones told Sam Webb that he's currently 225 and that:

"I’m not looking to try to get a lot bigger, just trying to get a lot faster while I’m here, get a lot quicker.  I’m probably going to be at 230 or 232 something like that.  Right now, they say I have a great possibility of playing early. ”

That is what they tell all the girls who want to play DL at 230. It's going to be some time before we see what the finished product here is; Jones and Harbaugh and Mattison should combine to make it whatever the best finished product can be.

Etc.: His commitment announcement is now slightly awkward. Ricky Barnum (yes that Ricky Barnum):

"He kind of reminds me of Mike Martin. Not like his body-type or anything, but he reminds me so much of him in terms of his motor and work ethic. He's the kind of kid that every coach should have."

Stats:

Jones recorded 71 tackles and 10 sacks last season as a senior at Lake Gibson, and finished with 27 1/2 sacks during his varsity career.

Why Mario Ojemudia? Explosive but undersized defensive end who needs to add a lot of weight to be plausible and may top out around 250. Jones, like Ojemudia, spent a significant amount of time in high school playing a DT spot. Both were ranked as three stars because of questions about their size. Ojemudia's high school film was a lot more impressive, but Jones is probably playing against better players.

Craig Roh is another potential comparable. Roh was a much bigger recruit but did not live up to that hype. After he stopped bouncing around to linebacker—which was depressing for him and us—and found a place on the defensive line he rounded into a solid run-stopping end. Heady and high motor are two attributes you could apply to both players.

Guru Reliability: High-minus. Healthy guy playing approximately his spot. Didn't go to camps much and will have to put on some weight.

Variance: Moderate. He'll probably work out in some form; he probably won't be an electric star.

Ceiling: Moderate. Size will be an issue and doesn't seem to have the kind of explosiveness that would help mitigate that.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Jones seems like a good bet to be a contributor and maybe a starter. Hard to see a star, but Harbaugh's made hay with these kinds of dudes before.

Projection: I keep saying redshirt redshirt redshirt and Jones is another guy you'd figure is in line for one at 225 or 230. After either a redshirt or sparing time this year, Jones will be in the mixer at WDE (or "buck") and maybe SAM if he ends up Jake Ryan-ish. With Lawrence Marshall and probably Taco Charlton in front of him it'll be year three before Michigan will be banking of Jones to deliver.

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