Getting to know Tennessee's class of 2007: No. 7, WR Gerald Jones

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Introducing No. 7 in Tennessee’s class of 2007: athlete/wide receiver Gerald Jones

Not Grandpa Jones:

Gerald Jones:

Hyperbole?

If Gerald isn't one of the top 50 players in the country, I don't know who is. I've had coaches tell me he reminds them of Reggie Bush.Millwood head coach Keith Bell
My first thought upon reading that quote? Wild exaggeration from a coach trying to get one of his players into a big time program. You’ll often hear coaches compare an opponent’s best player to some superstar immediately after a loss to that team. Makes ‘em feel better, see? You’ll often hear recruiting gurus opine that a recruit is the next [fill in the blank.] Hyperbole draws attention, soothes battered egos, and justifies subscriptions. It’s not to be taken literally.

And then I saw this:

And this:

That, my friends, is what ESPN calls a "scary athlete," with "possibly the best set of feet . . . in this class." Jones is explosive and quick, and he can start and stop like a fly. If you skipped the videos, you may be skeptical when you hear that his classmates call him SportsCenter, but if you watched the footage, you know. Dude’s got moves.

Okay, so is Gerald Jones the next Reggie Bush?

Not really. Reggie Bush can’t pass.

This can’t be right

Gerald Jones was a starter on his high school football team even as a freshman. As a junior, he rushed for more than 1,900 yards and passed for over 850. He was responsible for 34 touchdowns, 24 on the ground and 10 through the air. Oh, and he had four interceptions on defense. Not bad.

Jones’ senior season, he merely rushed for 1,202 (or 2,083!) yards and 11 (or 27!) touchdowns while passing for a ho-hum 1,561 yards and 21 touchdowns. He really slacked off on defense, tallying 39 (or 49) tackles, two (or three) sacks, one (or two) interception(s), seven pass breakups, and four fumble recoveries. Seriously, some of those numbers have to be wrong, don’t they?

Well, maybe not, because the honors bestowed upon him seem to corroborate the numbers. Jones led his team to a 12-1 season in 2006. He almost set a national record by racking up 571 all-purpose yards on one nationally televised game. He was 32 yards short. Such feats earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd section, an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and the distinction of being one of three players in Tennessee’s 2007 class to be named the Gatorade Player of the Year for his home state.

So why only four stars, Scout and Rivals? The rest of the rankings suggest he got gipped. Oh well, Rivals does say that he’s the 87th best player overall and the fifth best athlete in the nation, and Scout has him as the 75th best player overall, the 11th best wide receiver, and the 10th best running back in the nation. Ask ESPN, and they'll tell you that Jones is the ninth best cornerback and the 88th best player overall in the nation. Even Tom Lemming's getting into the action with Jones, calling him the 22nd best player nationally.

Suitors

Jones may have been a bit underrated by the recruiting services, but the actual recruiters were not making the same mistake. Texas Tech made the first offer, way back in September or October, 2005. By mid May, Jones had close to 20 offers from schools spanning the nation, including Florida, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Texas A&M, and Tennessee.

Jones’ first official visit was to Texas Tech. He must have enjoyed himself, because immediately after the trip, he was quoted as saying, "Texas Tech is the place for me. They are definitely my #1 school."

Okay, but then came his trip to Rocky Top. Tennessee coaches paired Jones up with Oklahoma native Robert Meachem, and Meachem and Jones hit it off. Jones was then awed by the game atmosphere, calling Tennessee's loss to LSU "crazy," "nuts," "wild," and "incredible." Jones was also impressed with the university's family atmosphere, saying that coach Fulmer is not as mean as he looks and that he "did not really want to leave when the visit was over." He did leave, of course, but not without first mentioning that "Tennessee is at the top of the list."

On November 28, 2006, coach Fulmer and assistant coach Steve Caldwell called well on Jones, seeking to close the deal:

We had a great visit, coach Fulmer is a down to earth guy, just real genuine and easy to talk to. I didn't commit actually while he was here, but me and my mom were just sitting here talking about it after the visit, and she could tell that my mind was already made up, and she told me that if Tennessee was where my heart was at then there was no sense in waiting. After that I called coach Fulmer on his cell phone and verbally committed to Tennessee.

So what were the deciding factors? Academics. An opportunity to play against the best in the SEC. And the fact that Tennessee seemed like a home away from home, a place where he would be treated as a member of the family and not as just another guy on the roster:

I want a place with great coaches who treat their players like human beings and not another number. You know, they tell you that "you're our number one guy," then when you get there they just call you as a number. I don't like that.

Probably the biggest factor, though, was that at Tennessee, Jones would have an opportunity to play early at the wide receiver position. It was no secret that Tennessee desperately needed a new group of receivers. The fact that this was common knowledge turned out to be a double-edged sword (sidenote: I hear that Gillette will be releasing a new triple-edged sword next spring!) because as Tennessee started landing other receiver recruits, other schools started whispering sour somethings in Jones' ear.

On January 6, 2007, Jones said that although he was "solid as a rock to Tennessee," two schools – Texas Tech and Florida – were still recruiting him like revenuers chasing a NASCAR driver's ancestor. Okay, my words, but you get the point. Jones told another source on the same day that he planned to visit Florida on the 19th because "if it’s just something that absolutely stands out more, then I will have to make a change." This, of course, caused quite a stir on the message boards, but on January 14th, Jones quieted the storm and announced that he would not be visiting Florida and that he would no longer entertain overtures from Texas Tech.

But then, on February 1 and 2, Jones began "hearing a lot of different things," namely that Tennessee sure was recruiting a lot of wide receivers and boy it makes you wonder whether they're going to use your versatility at cornerback instead. Jones later admitted that after hearing this, he changed his mind first to Texas Tech then to Oklahoma State. Fulmer attempted to reel Jones back in on February 3, giving Jones his word that he’d be able to play his preferred position of slot receiver.

It was still up in the air, at least publicly, on Signing Day when Jones stepped up to the microphone and finally put an end to it all:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Where is Gerald gonna go?

I've decided to sign with the University of Tennessee.

So in the end, Jones waved buh-bye to offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, among others, leaving them scattered behind him like a team full of defenders that have just been juked out of their shoes by Reggie Bush.

Rocky Top Talk Mnemonic

Fee, fi, fo fum
Reggie Bush moves? Yeah, and then some.

Gerald Jones, welcome to Tennessee!

 

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