We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 10th installment in 2018. Here, we profile Matthew Jones, a center from Brooklyn.
- Size: 6-4/305
- Position: C
- Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
- School: Erasmus Hall
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 68
- Position Ranking: 1 (C)
- State Ranking: 2 (NY)
- Under Armour All-American
Jones had an uneventful and rather quiet recruitment coming from the Erasmus Hall program in New York. However, the nature of his recruitment belies how coveted he was as a center prospect. He gathered offers from Alabama and Clemson shortly after their January 2016 national championship bout and held additional offers from heavyweights like Georgia, Michigan, and Penn State. Yet, Ohio State was always the top pick; he even visited Ohio State in eighth grade as a strong signal of interest in the program. He finally received an offer from Ohio State in May 2016 and committed over a year later.
I retell this recruitment below and provide some context for his commitment. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report of a prospect that multiple coaching staffs evaluated for different positions but will primarily factor into Ohio State's interior line rotation, especially at center. I offer a projection of a redshirt in 2018 and conclude with some highlight film to watch at the end of the feature.
The word is out about Erasmus Hall. New York is not necessarily a hotbed of talent, or at least not sufficiently deep to put it on par with next-door Pennsylvania. However, New York's top talents can play anywhere and Erasmus Hall has been home to several of the state's most talented players over the years.
Better yet, those top talents from Erasmus Hall have eyed Ohio State as a destination. Curtis Samuel was the first in this line, signing with Ohio State as part of the Buckeyes' 2014 recruiting class. Jahsen Wint followed suit as part of the 2016 recruiting class. Matthew Jones was next in line and always eyed Ohio State as a destination landing.
The recruitment that followed was rather quiet, all things considered. A New York prospect is going to command immediate regional attention from programs like Boston College, Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse. Indeed, all four programs extended scholarship offers to Jones in the spring of his freshman year but did so after Jones communicated his interest in Ohio State by attending the Buckeyes' 2014 Friday Night Lights.
Several major programs made their pitch to Jones in his sophomore year after it became apparent that Jones was one of the top ten interior offensive linemen in the country for his recruiting class. Georgia and Penn State extended scholarship offers in the Fall of 2015. Alabama and Clemson extended offers of their own in the spring. Ohio State finally followed through the day after Clemson made its offer by letting Jones know he had an official offer on the table to come to Ohio State.
There was little drama over the remainder of his recruitment. Jones by that point had visited Ohio State several times. He had expressed being close to Curtis Samuel and Jahsen Wint with both still enrolled at the university by times Jones received his offer. Other programs made runs on Jones. Assistants from programs like Alabama, Florida, and Michigan even flew to New York to further their pitch to Jones to come to their respective programs.
There was, however, no question where Jones was going to enroll. It was just uncertain when Jones would announce his decision.
Matthew Jones committed to Ohio State on June 17, 2017 as the 10th member of what would become Ohio State's full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over competing offers from programs like Alabama, Clemson, and Penn State.
The pipeline has a lot to do with why Jones circled Ohio State as his top priority on the recruiting trail. Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg is a big fan of Urban Meyer. Landberg and Meyer have formed a bond since Meyer arrived at Ohio State that routinely gets exposure for Landberg's top players on Ohio State's recruiting radar. Indeed, Landberg brought Jones to Columbus to meet Urban Meyer at that 2014 Friday Night Lights when Jones was still in eighth grade.
Jones said little of why he chose Ohio State, leaving his head coach to do most of the talking. Jones doesn't have a social media presence either. His recruitment effectively ended with that June 17 decision last year. Jones later signed with Ohio State during the early signing period and enrolled on campus in January.
WHERE HE EXCELS
There was some disagreement among college coaches as to where and what side of the ball Jones is best suited. Some programs recruited him as a defensive tackle. Others seem him as an offensive lineman. Those who see him as an offensive lineman even see him as a potential tackle. This evaluation will treat him more as a future interior lineman. Jones himself even expresses an interest at center.
Jones' greatest attribute might be his strength in the trenches. Even controlling for the level of competition at the high school level and it's still clear that Jones has incredible strength for a Division I prospect.
Ohio State fans will also be impressed by his footwork too. Jones already has college lineman size but impresses with his nimble feet too. The worry is always that linemen his size will be rather lumbering in the trenches even controlling for how interior linemen are generally not as fleet of foot as the tackle prospects.
Finally, Jones is a "to the whistle" lineman. He finishes blocks, routinely at the second level. Ohio State fans will like that as well.
MUST WORK ON
Jones has good lower body strength but he curiously drives most of his strength in the trenches from his upper body. That's not ideal. It's good enough in high school but would be a problem against even the weaker opponents Ohio State plays in a given year. He'll want to work on his leg drive and driving most his power from his lower body or he's going to get pushed back at the point of attack at this level.
He'll also want to work on how he uses his hands. Jones could do better to make first contact with the defender and use his arms/hands to keep defenders at bay. His film shows him pushing around defensive linemen but again deriving his power from his lower body while also letting the defender inside his chest.
Don't misunderstand there's incredible potential for Jones, who could be an All-American with a tree in his name outside Ohio Stadium. However, his path toward that status requires getting the important little things right as he develops.
Jones enrolled in January to get accelerate his development as a college football player. However, Brady Taylor seems like the heir apparent at center to Billy Price and Wyatt Davis is going to provide important depth at the unit.
Jones could still conceivably challenge for playing time in 2018 but a redshirt seems more likely.
Here are junior-year highlights of Matthew Jones.