With the NFL Draft approaching, I am taking a look back at some memorable recruits who are now likely to be high picks. In this series, I'll touch on memories of the recruits, scouting, projection and fun anecdotes. I previously looked at Jalen Ramsey and Derrick Henry.
Back in the class of 2013, eventual Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones was defensive end Chris Jones, a player many analysts had heard of but few had seen. Jones was from tiny Houston (Miss), a town of less than 4,000, about equidistant from Tupelo and Columbus, as well as Oxford and Starkville.
Jones had no publicly available film that I could find. Not on Hudl, ESPN, Rivals or 247Sports.
Throughout the class of 2013, Jones' eventual college state rival, Robert Nkemdiche, held the top recruiting spot. Nkemdiche looked like a 30-year-old NFL player. But during all-star season, word began to get around that Jones -- while not necessarily a better player at the time -- might be a better prospect because he was a lot more raw and could have a higher ceiling.
I was really excited to see a player who was becoming a bit of an urban legend in recruiting circles, especially after he destroyed the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, earning MVP honors as a defensive lineman despite being on the losing side.
It was even crazier that, since entering the event, Jones had just one Power 5 offer -- from Mississippi State, the school to which he committed in 2012. Nkemdiche, on the other hand, had more than 40 offers.
I got a chance to see Jones a few weeks later in Orlando for the Under Armour All-America Game, and the whispers weren't far off. Jones' technique was a lot less refined than Nkemdiche's, but he showed flashes of absolutely freakish athleticism for a 6'6.5, 255-pound athlete.
He rocketed up the rankings on all the recruiting sites, eventually rating as a five-star behind only Nkemdiche at DE. He gained a bunch of offers and ultimately stuck with Mississippi State, where he'd show some flashes of brilliance while gaining weight and moving to defensive tackle.
Jones is now projected by many to go in the second or third round of the NFL Draft, but he was one of only 25 players announced by the NFL as attending the draft, along with Ole Miss' Nkemdiche, who also wound up at DT.
What sticks with me most was the lack of film and press on a player who would end up ranked as one of the 20 best in the nation by the end of the recruiting cycle. Sometimes players toil in obscurity because they were injured or just not that good until late in their careers, but I cannot recall a player in recent memory who was this talented, eventually had the film to show it as a junior and received almost no press until the final 100 days of the recruiting cycle.
Friday is the first day of the spring evaluation period. What does that mean? I explain it here. Be on the lookout for hundreds of offers.
SEC spring games loaded with recruiting visitors.
Alabama, Georgia and LSU all have their spring games this weekend and it's a good bet that 100+ four- and five-stars will be making their way to check them out. I've recently hit up Orlando, Atlanta, New Orleans and Houston, and heard from many top players that they will be making their way to Athens.
Alabama will host four-star linebackers Chris Allen of Baton Rouge (La.) and Markail Benton of Phenix City (Ala.), as well as Pompano Beach four-star receiver Jerry Jeudy, though Jeudy was also thinking of going to LSU's game.
LSU will host a big group from Florida including South Florida defensive backs Daniel Wright, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Stanford Samuels III, ad well as in-state stars like Livonia (La.)'s Patrick Queen and commitment Jontre Kirklin.
Georgia QB commit Jake From will be at "G-Day" to help recruit others like Jacksonville receiver D.J. Matthews, an FSU commit, and Trey Blount, of Atlanta's Pace Academy. Lanier defensive end Michael Allen also planned to attend as of March.
If you're a recent signup or missed a day, that's okay. I link my previous Crootletters in this section.
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