It's weird to come off such a disappointing season with so much enthusiasm.
I took that comment straight from the Alize Jones commitment post and I couldn't agree more. It does feel kind of weird.
At the same time, I don't know how a Notre Dame fan couldn't be excited about the possibilities for next season. The Irish are coming off a very good win in the Music City Bowl where they consistently ran the ball on the SEC's best defense, they are getting back a potential All-American left tackle that decided to return for his senior season, and the Irish are going to have their most talented team in the Brian Kelly era.
And now with a commitment from the top tight end recruit in the nation, Bishop Gorman's Alize Jones, a good recruiting class has the chance to become a potentially great one.
When I first watched film of Jones from his sophomore and junior year, it was obvious he was a big time receiving talent. Athletically, he really stood out. A player his size doesn't typically take bubble screens to the house, but that's the kind of thing Jones showed he was capable of. Not only did he show that he could be a threat after the catch, but the way he adjusted to the football and the way he consistently snatched the ball with his hands made it obvious that he was at the very least the kind of tight end that could line up all over the field as a spread tight end. The one thing I wasn't sure of was if he was going to be a player who just wanted to be a glorified big receiver or if he wanted to become a complete player.
It didn't take long to watch him during his senior season to get an answer.
The effort Jones showed as an in-line blocker was outstanding. It's not just that he was a willing blocker either. He was trying to finish defenders and put them on their butts. That's the kind of mean streak I didn't expect to see from a player with his talents and I loved it.
None of that effort he put into blocking took away from his dynamic abilities as a receiver. I watched Bishop Gorman take on one of California's top teams, Centennial (Corona), back in the fall and Jones took over that game as a receiver. In a game loaded with top recruits on both teams, Jones was by far the best player on the field. When Gorman needed a play, they didn't go to 4 star wide receiver Cordell Broadus or dynamic 2017 star Tyjon Lindsey, they went to Jones and he kept coming up big.
Too big for safeties to cover. Just ask Oregon commit Jihree Stewart who repeatedly got beat by Jones during that game. Too fast for linebackers to run with. Just watch the speed Jones shows after catching this slant after being lined up out wide for further evidence of that.
Kids who are 6'4" 230 shouldn't be able to run after the catch like that.
The obvious comparison for Notre Dame fans with Jones is Tyler Eifert. Jones could have equally as good of a career as Eifert before all is said and done, but the biggest difference between the two out of high school is that Jones is much more of a natural tight end than Eifert because of Eifert being used at multiple positions for his high school, including safety. Jones was much more focused on playing tight end, although he did play as a defensive end at times as well.
Eifert did not play as a freshman, partly because of a serious back injury, but he wasn't going to beat out Kyle Rudolph regardless if he was healthy or not. It could be a much different story with Jones.
Right now he is going to step into a competition against four talented, but unproven, players. Notre Dame's next great tight end could be any of Tyler Luatua, Mike Heureman, Nic Weishar or Durham Smythe, but my money is on Alize Jones.
It's not going to be easy for him to come in play right away, but his talent is undeniable. Provided he continues with his progression as a blocker to go along with his natural athletic skills as a receiver, he can become a special player at Notre Dame.