Five-star safety Laurence Jones is one of the best defensive recruits in the 2014 class, and his interest list backs that up.
Out of the three schools on top of his 247Sports interest list, two of them have become known for boasting elite defenses in the past few seasons: LSU and Alabama. The third, Ohio State, could be in that category soon enough now that Urban Meyer has taken over, but there's no doubting what the Tigers and Crimson Tide have been known for.
Jones is from Monroe, Louisiana and he's ranked as the No. 3 player from the state according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. He's also ranked as the No. 2 safety in the 2014 class (247Sports Composite).
Both Alabama and LSU are usually major players for top state of Louisiana recruits, so keep those two programs in mind specifically as you go through this scouting report.
With all that in mind, here's my complete scouting report for Laurence Jones:
- Name: Laurence Jones
- Hometown: Monroe, La.
- School: Neville High School
- Position: S
- Height: 6'2" (247Sports)
- Weight: 200 lbs (247Sports)
- Rankings: 5-star (247Sports Composite), 4-star (Rivals), 4-star (Scout.com), Watch List (ESPN Recruiting Nation)
Jones is a very instinctual defender who has the size, speed and agility to make a lot of plays at the college level. He plays with great quickness and explosiveness, and that translates to both run and pass defense.
As a run defender, he gets downhill very quickly because of his good break and footwork. He can run the lane and make a strong play on the ball carrier, displaying good fundamentals as a tackler. He doesn't appear to be afraid of contact.
Jones' quickness and explosiveness also come into play as a pass defender. He shows the ability to open his hips and run with a wide receiver, and his length and athleticism allow him to make a play on the ball. He has great vision and is athletic enough to go up and high-point the ball. He's also a threat to run it back to the house after an interception.
In the pictures below you can really see the full range of what Jones will be bringing to the table as a safety or even a corner at the college level.
He's lined up at corner in what appears to be a cover three. In this coverage, he's responsible for bailing and defending the deep third. He has to keep everything in front of him, as he won't have any help over the top from the free safety, who is bailing deep middle. There's an outside receiver lined up off screen:
The offense runs a bubble play, which means the outside receiver will take a step forward to act as if he's going vertical, but then come back to the line of scrimmage where the ball will be waiting.
This is a great offensive play against a cover three because the corner is bailing (which Jones did), and all a receiver has to do is pick up easy yards. If the receiver can make the defender miss and get outside, the offense could be looking at a touchdown.
You can see that Jones reads the quarterback, see's the play developing, plants his foot and starts to work towards the line of scrimmage. Getting a good break and not taking a false step here is crucial, and Jones does a good job of planting and exploding forward, which you can see in the second picture:
Also notice how much ground Jones is able to cover by the time the ball gets to the receiver. This is supposed to be a quick throw and catch designed to pick up easy yards mind you, but Jones' athleticism, instincts and quickness allow him to really close on the play:
He gets to the receiver, makes contact and drives him back:
He ends the play by wrapping up and dragging down, taking what should have been an easy gain against a cover three and turning it into a loss:
I noticed was that there were times when Jones seemed to shuffle in coverage rather than backpedal. This isn't a huge deal because the shuffle-tilt is a technique that some coaches like to teach their defensive backs (including Nick Saban), especially in bump and run.
There's nothing that can replace the traditional backpedal, though, for a defensive back, and while I'm positive Jones can backpedal and open his hips because I did see it on his tape, I'd truthfully like to see it just a bit more heading into college.
This is not really a negative, but more of a talking point. We can argue backpedal and shuffle step all day, but in the end, I'd just like to see a bit of variety so that I know without a doubt that he can effectively do both.
After all, we're not sure what scheme he'll be asked to run in college, so getting those extra reps in the backpedal could be important.
Like I said, I saw Jones backpedal, so I know it's possible. If he ends up in a scheme where the backpedal is a must, he'll definitely have to rep it more though.
Jones can play either safety or corner at the college level, though, because of his ability to break and fly to the line of scrimmage, he projects best as a safety.
Which coach will land Jones' commitment?
The Tigers like to utilize bigger, stronger corners, and Jones can play on the edges as a defensive back. LSU also has the commitment of 5-star 2014 safety Edward Paris and 4-star 2014 safety Devin Voorhies, though, so that could end up playing a role.
Like I stated earlier, Saban likes the shuffle technique at Alabama, so that could be a factor as well. The Crimson Tide will also have a need for depth at safety soon enough, and Jones is talented enough to come in and compete for more than just a depth-chart spot.
Finally, there's Ohio State, who we shouldn't forget about in this race. The Buckeyes had a very good 2013 defensive back class highlighted by 5-star safety Vonn Bell, so they won't have as much need as Alabama does for a safety, though I'm sure Jones would qualify as a "want."
In the end, Alabama may present Jones with the best overall situation (need plus championship aspirations), and I like Saban's chances of reaching into Louisiana and out-recruiting Les Miles for the 5-star safety.