No. 8 D.J. Jones
Wide receiver/defensive back
Weight: 180 pounds
College interest: Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky, Lindsey Wilson
A lot of high school wide receivers are blessed to have one solid quarterback throwing to them in their high school career. Cleveland’s D.J. Jones has had two.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior has definitely done his fair share in making both look good, too.
After catching passes from current University of Pittsburgh freshman quarterback Chad Voytik, Jones has been able to build familiarity with classmate Austin Herink, and the two hooked up for 54 catches, 693 yards and 11 touchdowns on Jones’ way to first-team Times Free Press Best of Preps honors as a junior. He comes in as the No. 8 prospect on the newspaper’s Dynamite Baker’s Dozen list for the area’s top prospects in 2013.
He feels he’s grown some in his first two seasons as a starter but still has room to grow.
“I know that I run my routes a lot better now, and I have a lot more experience,” he said. “It’s been good playing with both Chad and with Austin — they’re good quarterbacks. I’ve done well so far in my career, but I can still do better.”
He said that improving on yards after the catch is an area he’s worked on, as well as getting faster and stronger. He currently runs the 40-yard dash in the range of 4.4 to 4.5 seconds.
Jones has been to camps at Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky and NAIA program Lindsey Wilson. MTSU is the college program he’s hoping to join, but to get there he’ll have to “get his GPA up some,” he admitted.
Jones, who also plays basketball, wasted very little time getting back in the weight room after a disappointing end to the 2012 season — when the Blue Raiders dropped a 29-27 decision to then one-win Rhea County in the season finale. It gave the Raiders a 5-5 record, and they ultimately were left out of the Class 5A state playoffs.
That last loss left a bad taste in the team’s collective mouth, one Jones and the other Raiders don’t want to experience again.
“We’re hoping to go far this season, but we have to take things game by game,” he said. “I think the Rhea loss really caught us off guard, but we’ve learned that we can’t take any team lightly.
“We’ve also become a much more positive team.”
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.