Laurence Jones, a 5-star safety recruit out of Neville High School (Monroe, La.) has committed to play college football for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2014.
Derek Tyson of ESPN broke the news:
With Jones' commitment, Alabama continues to build an elite class:
#Bama now has 23 commits including 18 ranked in the ESPN300. Tide continue to add separation between everyone else in the recruting rankings— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) December 2, 2013
According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Jones is the No. 3-ranked safety prospect in the country and the 30th-best evaluated player coming out of high school. The site also named him a second-team All-American this past February.
There is little reason to think that Jones won't have an immediate impact for the Crimson Tide even as a true freshman. To start, his size is a huge plus in playing the physically demanding schedule of the SEC. At 6'2" and 214 pounds, he's a big body for a defensive back.
The fact that Jones displayed the versatility to play both on the outside as a corner and as a nickelback enhances his chances of seeing significant action.
Jones already has an ideal frame for the college game—and clearly has more room to grow over the next four years. Gifted with exceptional range and natural instincts, it's easy to see how he was so highly coveted by many of the nation's premier programs as a safety.
With solid technique in terms of tackling, it's even feasible that Jones could develop as an outside linebacker at the collegiate level—although that would negate at least in part what he does best.
The ability that Jones has displayed in coverage and understanding route concepts in order to jump passes is what makes him a true difference maker. Oftentimes, he can bait the quarterback into a throw thanks to his outstanding closing burst and the drive he can make to the football.
Although he won't necessarily be able to make a living out of that at Alabama right away, it is a good, early indicator that Jones knows what he's doing schematically and that he can dictate coverage as the quarterback of the defensive backfield.
Jones' ball skills are also surprisingly polished for this infantry stage of his career, and he is very rarely out of position or missing an assignment.
All of those factors should allow the heralded recruit to thrive at Alabama, and don't be surprised if such qualities lead to Jones seeing the field a lot in his maiden campaign.