November 11, 2008

2010 RB catching the state by fire

Entering the 2008 football season, Denison junior running back D.J. Jones may not have been a household name to those who follow recruiting in the Lone Star State. That is not the case anymore.

Denison (10-0) marches into its Class 4A Division II opening round playoff game versus Royse City with Jones leading North Texas in rushing yards and touchdowns. The Jackets star runner has rushed for 2,236 yards on just 182 carries for an eye popping 12.2 yards per carry and 32 touchdowns. At 6-0, 220, Jones has the size and strength to run through tackles and has the speed (4.5 40-yard dash) to run away from opposing safeties.

So, how does a running back capable of putting up these type numbers fly under the radar of most recruiters?

"D.J. missed an extensive period of time with a high ankle sprain his sophomore year," explained Denison Head Coach Cody White. "Before the injury, D.J. was very productive averaging 160 yards per game, but now people are starting to see what he can do over a full season."

The Jackets regular season finale featured one of the best running back match-ups of the year in Class 4A. Sherman running back Waymon James, who is ranked No.23 on the Lone Star Recruiting Top 100 for 2009, and Jones were the talk of Texomaland entering the rivalry game. While James was held to just 60 yards rushing, Jones was finishing up an impressive regular season, rushing for 287 yards on 21 carries and scoring three touchdowns in the Jackets 34-17 win.

So what has led to Jones successful 2008 season?

"The first thing is D.J. just being healthy," says Coach White. "Secondly, it's tough for a sophomore to be successful in our league. Last year D.J. may have played too fast. He has learned to be patient and let things develop in front of him. He is such a physical runner that he still had success last year, but this year he is a better back because of the patience he shows."

The patience that White pointed out was none more evident than earlier in the season when Denison defeated McKinney, 65-64. Jones had a monster night with over 400 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns and adding another score on a screen pass. The most impressive play of the night, however, wasn't a touchdown at all.

With Denison clinging to a one point lead and only 1:13 remaining in the game, Jones broke free through the Lions defense yet again. This time there was no touchdown. Realizing that McKinney was out of timeouts, and Denison struggling to contain the Lions offensive attack, Jones simply fell down inside the five yard line untouched. The unselfish play by Jones robbed McKinney of any comeback hopes and preserved the win for the Jackets.

"Coming into this season I wanted to be known as a team player and stay humble," Jones said. "I put an emphasis on the mental part of the game. I thought that would help me be a better overall player."

The play at the end of the McKinney game speaks volume to Jones team attitude.

Jones also knows there is room for improvement before entering next years senior season.

"I will continue to work on my strength," Jones said. "I feel like my strength and vision are my two biggest assets right now. However, I want to focus on improving my speed. My coaches and I are putting together a program that I will follow in the off-season that should improve my quickness and overall speed. That coupled with basketball should help."

With success on the field, comes attention off of it. Recruiters are starting to take notice of the junior running back.

"I've had the most contact with Oklahoma and Baylor. Oregon has shown strong interest and Texas Tech called earlier in the week," Jones said.

Jones has a tie with Texas Tech in former Denison standout safety Anthony Hines, who is not only currently on the Red Raider roster, but is also a cousin of Jones.

As far as the University of Texas is concerned, Jones was asked his interest level in the Horns and if any visits were being planned. "I have a very high interest in Texas," Jones said with a smile. "In fact, Bobby Kennedy called and invited my teammates Jordan (Taylor), JaQwaylin (Arps) and myself to the Baylor game."

All three attended last Saturday.

With the Longhorns definitely in the mix, it was interesting to see where the Horns found themselves on his early list of favorites.

"Texas is #1, followed by Oklahoma and Oregon at this point," Jones said.

Jones should continue to put up monstrous numbers during the Jackets playoff run and through next years senior season. With the attention and interest that he is now receiving, his days of flying under the radar are officially over.

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