Velus Jones Jr. is making the most of his second chance in college football. Buried on the depth chart at USC, Jones made the decision to transfer closer to home, taking Tennessee up on an offer to join the team for the 2020 season. He didn’t play a prominent role in the offense, but he provided a few bright spots here and there.
Now with the gift of an extra season of eligibility from the NCAA, Jones sits in his best opportunity yet. The veteran receiver now gets to play in a wide-open offense, powered by Josh Heupel. The offensive wiz from UCF brings his spread, up-tempo attack back to the SEC, where it once had big success at Missouri.
Jones is a big fan of his new coach, and he reiterated that at his SEC Media Days appearance on Tuesday.
“He has an amazing personality,” Jones said of Heupel. “He’s a real open guy. I feel comfortable going up there any time, the second I need to. Just the whole staff is amazing.”
Jeremy Pruitt was fired in January, following an investigation into potential recruiting violations. The University hired Danny White as the new athletics director first, then tasking him with finding Tennessee’s next head football coach. White had a meeting with the team to discuss their needs, and Heupel ended up getting the call from his (very briefly) former boss.
“With Coach Heupel, he really interacts with the players a lot,” Jones said. “He’s always around us, whether it’s like tossing the football or coming in the weight room, checking on us, asking us about our personal lives, like he’s just an amazing guy. He’s always involved, he’s always around, you’re always seeing his face, so he’s a really likable guy. I’m so proud to go to war for that man this fall.”
You’ve gotten to see a little bit of that side of Heupel to this point, mainly through Tennessee’s mini-documentary series throughout spring practices. You saw a little bit of that again during media days, with Heupel coming across as a really genuine guy. The changes in culture at Tennessee have been a focal point of the offseason, with Heupel making relationships a priority within the program.
As for Jones, he’ll probably assume a slot role in an offense that has been a mainstay in the top 15 for years, no matter where Heupel has been coaching. Jones should see the most targets of his career, with a chance to be a consistent impact player this fall.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of 100,000 people, just putting on a show with this explosive offense, going on the field and having fun with my brothers,” Jones said. “It’s all about fun. I’ve been playing this game since I was 4 years old. I’m so excited. Words can’t even explain how excited I am about it.”