Name: Cory Jones
Hometown: Washington, DC
School: Archbishop Carroll
24/7: 87, three stars; #36 WDE, DC #6
ESPN: 71, three stars; #143 DE, DC #12, East #244
Rivals: 5.4, two stars
Scout: two stars
Other offers: Illinois, Wake Forest, Toledo, ODU
It's a familiar story by now: raw athlete hasn't played football since he could walk like the rest of his recruiting class, is therefore underrecruited and Mike London pounces. Cory Jones is even more extreme than the usual story; Jones grew up working on his hardcourt skills, hoping to get his chance as a basketball player. By the time his junior season was over, though, he was coming to the realization that the offers weren't coming.
So he finally gave in to his school's football coach's urging to try the gridiron, with a lot more success than he'd ever had in hoops. It didn't take long - only a few weeks into the season - for some of the more local schools such as Maryland to come sniffing around. This is still absurdly later than the usual recruiting cycle, and what usually takes at least a year and more often two was compressed into just a couple months. Somewhat overwhelmed, Jones made a hasty commitment to Toledo, but retracted it on his official visit to UVA and became the penultimate member of the class of 2014.
The most intruguing thing about Jones is the sacks he racked up this past fall. This number is variously given as 20, 25, or 26, many of them in his first few games. Whatever the actual total, it's impressive; Archbishop Carroll plays in the highly competitive WCAC against schools like Good Counsel and DeMatha, and there's a ton of I-A talent that comes out of that league.
Depending on who you ask, Jones's athleticism is anywhere from eye-popping to average; ESPN credits him with just "adequate playing strength and average initial quickness for size." Scout agrees regarding Jones's initial moves, while Rivals and 24/7 have higher opinions. The guy literally never put on a football helmet til last summer, so I have a tough time believing 20-odd sacks are the result of average athleticism. Jones is probably closer to the higher end of the scale, but if he really was a Ziggy Ansah physical freak, a few more offers would surely have come his way.
Two comparisons with current UVA players come to mind; the first is, plainly, Max Valles. Jones has a similar build and projection; because he's still such an unsculpted mound of clay, there's the thought that he could develop into either a true weakside defensive end, or a stand-up pass-rushing linebacker like Valles with potential to learn the nuances of occasionally dropping into coverage and diagnosing run plays and other linebacker things.
Much depends on both how he fills out his frame, and who is coaching him in the future. Though Jon Tenuta has at least a rough blueprint on how he wants to use Jones, if there's a different coaching staff in a few years they might very well have their own ideas. This brings us to the other currently-playing comparison: Trent Corney, who has needed quite some time to channel his considerable athleticism into a useful form and should never have been on the field as a true freshman. There's really no reason for Jones to see the field this year; if he thought the recruiting process was overwhelming, wait'll he gets a load of actual college coaching. Lots to learn. I don't expect anything at all out of Jones until his third year in the program at the soonest, and if he's rushed, that won't change things. By then we should be able to tell if his talents are going to translate into regular contributions, or if he's on his way to being recruited over.