Now that the 2018 class is signed, sealed and delivered, it is time to look back on the final six commits who inked with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on February 7th. Today we start with Luke Jones, a 6-5, 292-lb. offensive tackle from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Jones is a solid 3-star prospect with some obvious strengths, and also some room for development.
Jones has everything in his DNA to be a natural right tackle, based on his overall size, and more importantly his wingspan. His frame is large enough to easily carry another 20 pounds, adding to his already large presence on the edge.
For a kid of his size, he shows excellent feet and an ability to move downfield, especially on screens and pulls to reach the next level while under control. The key here is that his stride is always stable — he never “stumbles” down field to find his block. (Often you’ll find a lineman, while running outside his 3-yard box on the line of scrimmage, struggling to run in stride to find the defender downfield and spring a back loose.)
He engages his blocks well, reaching them easily, using his wingspan to lock onto the defensive player and push him away from the running lane designed into the play. The offense he plays in doesn’t require much explosion out of his stance, so you often find him upright, finding his assignment by using his height and the blocking scheme employed. This scheme, which is essentially to prevent anyone from crossing your face, fits his strengths — again, he moves well and can reach his blocks with little difficulty.
Jones also finishes his blocks well. I’m sure while the Fighting Irish coaching staff were evaluating his film, they noticed this trait, which shows the aggressive streak that every offensive line coach is looking for.
His pass blocking is a solid element of his game as well. Again, based on what's asked of him in the scheme of his offensive system, his main goal is to take a wide drop step, and set an edge against the defensive end — basically using his length to push him off and away from the pocket. He shows great balance in that first step, and also in the following “gather” step that sets the edge, not losing his balance and getting pushed into the QB or his passing lane when engaging his defender. Jones is also a big guy to try to rush around, and his size is a big part of his overall value as a Notre Dame recruit.
It's a bit difficult to isolate what Jones needs to work on most with his overall game, because he comes out of the same stance on almost every single play that I reviewed. Jones and the offensive line are continuously in an exaggerated 2-point stance, if you will.
The offense Jones played in is a quintessential spread offensive scheme. Not a lot of man blocking schemes, but zone-reach types of techniques. In a zone scheme the lineman is only responsible for the gap to which the ball is going. The only thing that changes is whether a run goes inside or outside.
For Jones, on the inside runs, he has a tendency to stay upright after his reach step and during his drive blocking. He stands up way too often, essentially pushing the defender downfield. That didn't have an adverse effect on his ability to hold the block in high school, mainly due to his overwhelming size and strength advantage. He won't have that in college, so it's not clear how well his technique will translate to the major college level. With this said, I’m certain the Irish coaching staff will teach him to stay lower and use his leverage better.
The same issue occurs on outside runs. In an outside run in the traditional spread, the offensive lineman must angle block to cut off the play-side defender or engage in a combo block, then release to the second level. Jones exhibits good quickness in his steps and getting in and out of the combo block; the only issue — again — is his elongated upright stance. Even as he moves off the combo blocks, he stands way too upright, making himself vulnerable to a defender engaging his body and clogging the hole.
His knee bend is a bit stiff when getting low and exploding into a block. I believe, however, that this is just the result of habitually practicing the pass-first blocking technique, which was what he was asked to do in his high school's offensive scheme.
The thing that saved him in high school was his reach advantage, which allowed him to hold the defender off more often than not. This will not translate well into D-1 football, especially the level to which we have seen the Notre Dame offensive line evolve over the last year. Again, though, I expect that Jones will have greatly improved coaching once he comes to South Bend.
Jones has the athletic ability and talent to contribute to the Notre Dame offensive line in the future. He may require two or three years of working on his technique and in the weight room to develop to his maximum potential. Chip Long’s offense requires not only man blocking schemes, but also zone technique that utilizes a much more north-south approach.
Jones has the overall ability to do whatever he wants. If he learns to get lower in his blocks and develops drive blocking expertise, he should win playing time in this offense.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish got themselves a good offensive lineman here, one who could be very good. I’ve seen thoughts of moving him inside, but I don't see the ingrained ability for inside line play in him. This is not a bad thing at all — he's a very good right tackle prospect. His potential for growth is definitely on the outside.
I believe Brian Kelly and Chip Long have seen this in Jones's play and will lock into this path of growth for him. The one thing you can’t train or instill is raw athletic ability. Jones has plenty of this, and I think he will become a solid offensive lineman for the Fighting Irish in the future.