Going into the 2012 season, it was apparent the Irish needed another option through the air to go along with Tyler Eifert. All-American receiver, Michael Floyd left for the NFL draft and so did his 1147 yards receiving, and with the expectation of first time starter, Everett Golson behind center, someone had to step up.
Jones is no stranger to playing in the shadows of a future first round draft pick. In his sophomore season, Michael Floyd was the primary target for Tommy Rees, and this season, Eifert was the guy everyone was talking about. While the Irish passing game wasn’t exactly dynamic, Jones still managed to significantly improve upon his 2011 numbers, becoming a staple of the offense this season.
Jones and his 559 receiving yards (366 in 2011) were good for 2nd on the team, right behind the all-American tight end (Eifert). With 43 receptions, Jones finished his junior year just 1 reception from behind Eifert for the top spot. Jones only added 5 receptions to his 2011 total, however, his yards per catch jumped from 9.6 to 13, adding 193yds to his season total.
Jones athleticism is the biggest reason he was able to add nearly 200yds from the previous year. He’s a quick, shifty athlete who is able to make plays in the open field after the catch. Jones is also a great route runner. Eifert and Jones being able to run quick, crisp routes will be important as Kelly will be looking to get Golson going early with some quick, easy throws. Alabama is not known for their pass rush, their top 3 sack leaders are all linebackers; this shows they get pressure from blitz packages. If Bama has to blitz linebackers to get pressure, this could leave holes in the first level of the Tide secondary, giving a guy like TJ Jones a little room to make a play or two in the open field.
Eifert is clearly the star of the Irish receiving core, but sometimes it’s the unassuming co-star that makes the biggest splash. I expect TJ to have a big game as Alabama’s secondary isn’t what it has been in the past. If “The Rock” can hold down the Bama d-linemen and force Kirby Smart (Alabama’s D-Coordinator) to blitz, TJ might have a little day light from the slot and steal the show. GO IRISH!