Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 Season Countdown: #68 Mike Jones

Mike Jones (#27)
Name: Mike Jones
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 224 lbs.
High school: Orlando (FL) Edgewater
Position: Linebacker
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #27
Last year: I ranked Jones #33 and said he would be the backup WILL.  He was a backup WILL, but he was mostly buried on the bench and made 4 total tackles.

As you can see from last year's post, I am not a fan of Jones's abilities.  Because of the lack of depth at linebacker, I assumed he would be in the mix for playing time, but he was beaten out by Brandin Hawthorne, Brandon Herron, and freshman Desmond Morgan, each of whom started at least one game at WILL.  Jones always seems to be a step slow, which is especially a problem when you're a 224 lb. inside linebacker who's not a particularly big hitter.

I've seen enough of Jones getting passed up to assume that he will once again be an end-of-the-bench guy.  Herron graduated, but Morgan and Hawthorne are still around, along with redshirt freshman Antonio Poole; now freshmen Kaleb Ringer and James Ross join the fray.  Middle linebacker is also a possibility for Jones, but Kenny Demens is the starter there and freshman Joe Bolden might be his primary backup.  No matter where Jones gets the most reps in practice, he's likely to have a true freshman or redshirt freshman blocking his path.  Special teams coverage and mop-up duty seem to be his best bets for playing time.

Prediction: Special teamer

20 comments:

  1. Fair to assume that this guy is a goner (as in, no 5th year) after this year?

    He is part of the not-so-star-crossed '09 crop of early enrollees. That class of linebackers (him, Isaiah Bell, and Hawthorne) isn't looking very good at this point.

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    1. Unless the coaches see Jones as the heir apparent to Demens at MIKE, then it might be best for Jones to move on after this season. We all saw what happened to Rocko Khoury when it became clear that the coaches wanted Barnum to start.

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    2. Jones was the 3rd string MLB last year. Even if Bolden beats him out this year they might like to keep Jones around to be a backup in 2013.

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  2. Ah Mike Jones... I had such high hopes.

    I think you're right that his role will be minimal given how he has been passed up, but he still has an outside shot at holding off Bolden at backup Mike. He's kind of like Mealer in that he seems to have been on the fringe of contributing for a while, though LB has plenty of depth and OL doesn't. Still, he played LB in 6 games last year and he'll probably do something similar this year while being a significant special teams contributor too. His ranking is a little low - since some of the guys above him might red-shirt and have a less certain role on special teams, but he's obviously far from a vital cog to the '12 team.

    As for not renewing his 5th...that's a bit premature. Lets see how the roster shakes out a year from now. I believe the team hasn't had a full unit in years so I don't think they're in a position to push contributing players out, yet. From the sounds of it, Khoury left because he didn't love football, not because he wasn't needed. I think the coaches would have preferred to have a backup C than not this year. But no question that Jones might find more playing time on another roster.

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    1. I have heard the opposite on Rocko Khoury. From what I heard, the coaches made it clear that Barnum was their preferred choice at center and said he might be better off moving on with his life/career.

      Mealer has played a more significant role and seems much closer to contributing than Jones. Jones has always been an afterthought and plays a position with lots of other options. And based on what I've seen of Jones, the other options are unlikely to be less effective.

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    2. Mealer played OL in 7 games, Jones LB in 6 games. Mealer played every game on special teams while Jones' only played on 5 there. Both units were surprisingly healthy last season. Both guys have been getting passed by younger players. The situations have been pretty similar IMO. They're veterans who look like career backups. Not total busts per se, in that they're serviceable players, but marginal ones. In 2012 there is less OL depth - so Mealer is the more valuable player right now, by far. He's also a year older though...

      Regarding Khoury - My take on the (all second-hand of course) information out there is that it was made clear that he would not start, like you said. And perhaps even was told that Miller would get most of the 2nd team reps too. Still, they gave him a choice to come back (or not). Given Barnum's injury history and the fact that Miller hasn't played a down yet it seems odd to push out a player that has shown he can at least be decent. It doesn't make sense unless there is something about his personality that really bothers the coaches. From his side, putting in a 5th year of work just to be a practice-teamer probably didn't make sense. He was a guy who probably saw himself as being in line behind Molk and then he got passed over. With no pro future ahead of him, he bowed out. That's my 'outside' take. I could be wrong.

      Again, I'm skeptical of the local 'insiders' frequent application of "we didn't want that guy anyway". It happens of course, but there's a lot of times when we only hear about it after they're gone or (for recruits) committed elsewhere.

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    3. I don't doubt Thunder's account about the coaches nudging Khoury out. Despite the lack of depth, Funk was unusually frank in comments made about Khoury last summer. He basically said the kid had no shot to challenge for playing time at any OL spot. You almost never hear a coach talk like that, especially a scholarship player in the two-deep.

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    4. Mealer was hampered his first few seasons by recovering from the car accident. Last year he was the #2 backup behind Schofield, who's only a year younger. I don't buy the argument that Mealer was passed by Burzynski, so I consider it kind of a wash. Therefore, I think Mealer is right in the mix for playing time, and perhaps would be further ahead if other guys (like Omameh) hadn't already earned starting spots. All things being equal, you might as well play the guy with experience rather than the backup who hasn't played much. I'm not saying Mealer is equal to Omameh, but he's been a key backup.

      Meanwhile, Jones seems to have been passed again and again, even by a freshman (Desmond Morgan) last season, along with other career backups like Brandon Herron and Brandin Hawthorne. From what I heard, Marell Evans had also passed him up on the depth chart, and now it appears Joe Bolden has, too. The only linebacker on the roster the past few years with less playing time than Jones was Isaiah Bell...and he's gone.

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    5. If Jones has been passed over by Herron and Hawthorne and Evans (who didn't even play), then Mealer has been passed over by Barnum, Huyge and others that came in at the same time or before him. Yes, he got passed over by Morgan and probably Bolden - just like Mealer got passed over for Schofield, Lewan, and probably Bryant and Kalis too. Maybe even a WALK-ON for crying out loud. You're reaching here to say Jones is getting passed over again and again and Mealer isn't. Especially considering how few OL recruits have come in after Mealer...

      Calling Mealer a key backup before this season is a stretch. He's never played meaningful snaps in meaningful games. Whenever an injury has come the line has shuffled around and he's been excluded. OL is less like a baseball position and more like a basketball 5. There is a 6th and 7th man and those guys get called on first. Maybe with the exception of center, the positions are somewhat flexible.

      Jones was hurt too and, again, he's a year behind Mealer. They're both guys on the periphery. I don't expect either to emerge as a key player, but Mealer has less competition and is at a weak position group. I agree that Mealer is way more important to the 2012 team but I think there are a lot of similarities in terms of their situations - early injury, no meaningful role, not likely to make an impact, but still kinda hanging around on the edge of playing time. They're classic depth guys. We just need depth at OL way more.

      Haha. I love that we're debating the career arcs of the 7th lineman and 8th LB on the roster.

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  3. Antonio Poole is out for the year with a weight-lifting injury to his bicep. This was on Scout a couple weeks ago.

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    1. I had not heard that. That's unfortunate.

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  4. How much do players develop when they RS compared to being a backup? I originally thought I'd want Jones to backup MLB and let Bolden RS even if he doesn't need it physically but then I was wondering if a RS is a waste unless the player needs to add/cut weight, get situated with college academics, and/or have zero chance of contributing on the field at all.

    Basically, for a player like Bolden, a player who seems to be leaving HS as close to NCAA ready as possible, is it better in terms of developing into an elite LB to get the #2 reps or RS and add another year of eligibility? Demens clearly is our #1 guy and unless he gets injured Bolden won't see tons of reps, I assume. I guess the tradeoff is the development of RS + 1 extra (but not guaranteed) year of eligibility against getting game reps + difference between #2 and #3 options. If Demens showed any injury problems I'd say play Bolden but Demens has started 20 straight at MLB. I guess the worst outcome would be starting to RS Bolden but then Demens gets hurt and Bolden has to play, losing his RS while missing X number of games that he could have contributed in.

    Anyway... I think this calculation decides Mike Jones' playing time more so than at WILL. Well that plus what he does on ST. (Do you know if he was on ST last year?)

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    1. I don't think it's really that complicated. Magnus can probably provide more insight on this, but I think the coaches do what it takes to win football games. I don't think they lock kids into a redshirt unless they're absolutely sure they need it to develop. Whoever is ready to contribute will contribute.

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    2. I agree with the above comment. You use whoever you need to win the game. The amount of experience and comfort a player gets by playing back up reps is huge. If the player is a good one he will leave once he has his degree anyway. I personally would only intentionally redshirt those who physically aren't ready yet. Again, Magnus will surely have better insight than I.

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    3. In the front seven, the entire two-deep typically plays significant minutes. You don't want Demens playing the entire game, especially against up-tempo teams. So if Bolden is clearly ahead of Jones in ability, it's a no-brainer. Also, if a kid puts forth the effort to enroll early and is good enough to play, you have to play him. Otherwise, the coaches will have difficulty convincing kids to enroll early in the future.

      Outside of OL and QB, game-ready freshmen tend to see the field right away. A lot of fans want to redshirt everyone, but there are benefits to playing kids early such as speeding up player development, improving team morale, and showing recruits that it is possible to contribute early.

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    4. Yeah, tell RVB and Molk they weren't 'good players'.

      Most experience is coming from practice, not games. But playing in games obviously means a good bit too.

      LBs don't have to substitute the same way that DL do. Demens will play the vast majority of snaps if he can stay healthy.

      It may be the right call to play Bolden, but it may not. It's not a simple choice for mnay kids. You have to weigh his contributions this year (relative to the guy he replaces) vs his contributions as a 5th year senior and if its worth spending 5 years of scholarship on him for 4 years of production. PSmurf's points about the benefits of playing early are legit (I'd also add that it effectively gives you more scholarships to work), but that doesn't change the fact that most players are FAR better as 4th/5th year guys than as freshman and therefore they'll help you a lot more. Wouldn't you love to have Mike Martin back for another year? Of course you would. In his case, he contributed significantly as a freshman, so that was the right call, but others (like Denard Robinson and Jake Ryan) aren't nearly as close to their ceiling when they set foot on campus.

      OL and QB red-shirt more often than other positions because it's difficult to be game-ready for those positions. QB - mentally, OL - physically. If a QB is game-ready he plays. If an OL is game-ready he plays. Just like any other position. Safety and LB are other positions were the mental aspect tends to make red-shirts preferable, but UofM hasn't had the depth to do that as often lately. In general, it's as much about team need as individual readiness.

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    5. I think one area that is missing form this discussion is the 2013 question. If Bolden is arguably the 2nd best MLB heading into 2012 season and possibly the starting MLB for 2013, isn't getting game experience better than just practice reps as a redshirt?.

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    6. I think most people expect Bolden to play this year. He's an early enrollee and, like you said, he's the presumed starter (or at least a top backup) in 2013. If he really is the most likely guy to start in 2013, then I think it's worth skipping the red-shirt. However, that's still a big if. You could move Morgan to MLB and have Ross start at WLB too. Or Ringer, or someone else - who knows.

      The biggest thing that will matter for Bolden is getting practice reps. Yes, games matter, but practice matters much more. Jake Ryan did fine as a red-shirt freshman who hadn't played last year. Morgan did fine as a true freshman who did. Either scenario can work, depending on the guy and the situation.

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