Name: Zack Jones
School: Oscar Smith
24/7: 87; three stars; #79 WR; VA #24
ESPN: 73; three stars; #137 WR; VA #32; Atlantic #145
Rivals: 5.5; three stars; VA #26
Scout: three stars; #148 WR
Other offers: Illinois
Back in February at the beginning of the recruiting cycle, the smart money on UVA's first commitment of the season was this guy, Zack Jones. It had a lot - or everything - to do with the fact that he's the younger brother of "Superman" Perry Jones. The resemblance is uncanny.
Not just in their faces, either. Both are undersized, overshadowed, lightly recruited, highly productive members of their respective, highly touted recruiting classes. Perry had offers only from BC and Navy; Zack - perhaps seeing some schools scared off by his connection at UVA - added only a too-late tender from Illinois before committing to the Hoos in April. Zack is a little bigger than Perry - well, a little taller actually, but not much heavier - and plays wide receiver and cornerback, where Perry was a running back and safety. The generous 5'8" that Perry stands wasn't conducive to the usual athlete skill positions.
Jones brings state championship credentials to Charlottesville; Oscar Smith easily took the Division 6 title last year. On the season, he was two yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving, and would have a whole bunch more as a returner if anyone would ever kick to him, which they don't because they're not stupid. Oscar Smith also uses him as a runner on sweeps and reverses, and Jones is fast enough to do the same in college.
When it comes to his college skills, Jones is pretty much a universally-agreed-upon low-to-mid three star. The trait always mentioned first in any scouting report: his hands. Jones catches everything thrown at him. He's also got that good speed, but it's not elite. Some sites list him at six feet and some at five-eleven, which generally means he's not six feet, so he probably lacks the size to be an outside receiver. If he's got the football chops of his older brother, he'll do just fine in the slot, which requires you not to care about being leveled by a linebacker every so often.
ESPN does criticize his route-running, however: they "would like to see Jones become more crisp as a route runner. Lacks discipline and a complex route tree." Rivals called his route-running "underrated" which suggests he did fairly well at the 7-on-7 camp where that evaluation came from, but also suggests the route-running critiques have been used in the past. That said, that's an evaluation from just a couple months ago, and there basically is no such thing as zone coverage in 7-on-7 play, so there is at least an upward trend in the routes department. (Unfortunately, teams aren't likely to play much man-on-man against Oscar Smith this year, or ever, so he won't get much chance to work on that part of his game.)
As pointed out in the profile on Andre Levrone, Jones has a crowded WR depth chart awaiting him. But Jones complements Levrone nicely and fits well into this class; where Levrone is a bigger possession-receiver type, Jones is also an interior receiver, but more of a slot with potential to be used in backfield plays like end-arounds and bubble screens. That said, playing time will be scarce early. Jones will redshirt, and probably have to pay his dues for a couple years before being slowly worked into the lineup; you might've noticed that when Mike London doesn't have a specific need to fill, he really likes using scholarships on generic underscouted athlete sorts - think Maurice Canady, Trent Corney, Wil Wahee. Some of these will no doubt also present themselves as competition for Jones, besides just the players recruited specifically to play receiver. However, it's time for one last unfair comparison to his big brother: if his bloodlines mean anything, Zack Jones will find a way, somehow, to make himself indispensible.
Two items: first, bad news out of the baseball side of the world. It's the worst three words in baseball: "Tommy John surgery," and the recipient is Artie Lewicki. Lewicki was the closest thing to a sure bet to be in the weekend rotation, and that means Scott Silverstein is the only holdover and he's no guarantee to keep that job. Let's hope this incoming freshman class is as good as advertised.
Second, there is now a new place on the wide intertubers to read stuff I write, in case this one wasn't enough for you. If you've been reading for a while (a long while) you'll remember that the last time I tried an employment-style gig it disappeared as quickly as it started; I blame unrealistic expectations on my own part, of what I could and couldn't do. File "write two daily articles" under the "nope" category. Since then I've turned down a lot of other outside opportunities.
Why the change of heart this time? Because I was approached by folks whose work I know pretty well and have a lot of respect for; because I can write these with a different target audience in mind; and because it's only once a week. The big unveil is that I'll be the new Virginia "beat writer" for InsideTheACC.com, a new in-depth site on the ACC at-large that's brought to the world by the same folks behind the network that includes both TheSabre and TechSideline. The site's as new as new can be; it just launched publicly today, so go give 'em some traffic by reading my first article. In fact, look for it every Monday. I write FOV for an informed audience, while the InsideTheACC articles will be written with a mindset of "Virginia for non-Virginia fans." But you'll hopefully enjoy what you see anyway.