I'm going to be honest, I was hoping Markell Jones would wait until tomorrow to commit. I'm coming off a mighty bout of food poisoning, and am still on the cracker and gatorade diet. However, much like Markell, I will lower my head and power through.
Markell Jones decided to end the wait and cast his lot with the Boilermakers today. The 5'11, 205 pound running back has long been considered a Purdue lean, but with teams like Wisconsin and Minnesota sniffing around, it's nice to get him in the fold now. As an added bonus, Jones will graduate in December and get a head start on his college career. Jones was a must have in-state player for Hazell and the Boilermakers. The Columbus East star joins Robert Ennis as the second Purdue running back commitment of the 2015 class.
Jones put up obscene numbers for Columbus East last season, rushing for 2653 yards and 42 rushing touchdowns, leading the Olympians to an undefeated, state championship season. His numbers would have been even gaudier if Jones didn't spend a good part of the season on the bench, waiting out the end of another Columbus East blow out.
Lower Body Strength: Jones, listed anywhere between 5'9 - 5'11, is built like a tank. His legs are massive, and when he runs behind his pads, all defenders have to tackle are his two churning thighs. Jones doesn't just break tackles; he hardly registers them at all, as defenders bounce off his compact frame.
Quick Acceleration: Jones can make it to top speed in a hurry. This pairs nicely with his ability to break tackles. He can take a hit, regain his balance, and be back at top speed within a few steps. When he decides to put his foot in the ground and hit the hole hard, he bursts through the line with ease, often surprising defenders on the second and third levels of defense.
Drive/Determination: Markell is personally insulted when only one tackler attempts to bring him down, and punishes them accordingly. On the few occasions where the other team is able to surround Jones, he lowers his head and drives through, dragging multiple defenders down the field. On most occasions, Jones is the hammer, and the defense is the nail.
Strength of Competition: Let's go ahead and get this out of the way. Jones is playing Madden on the easy level. His team steamrolled through the regular season, and then destroyed every team in the state tournament until coming up against a good Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger squad in the championship game. That being said, Jones had 196 yards and two touchdowns in that game, so the step up in competition didn't hurt his production. Jones is just physically superior right now, and it shows in the box score. It will be interesting to see what happens when he lowers his shoulders and tries to truck an Ohio State linebacker. He might have to adjust his style of running at the Big 10 level.
Durability: I have no specific concerns about Jones's durability, but running backs with his style tend to get banged up in the Big 10. Jones looks for contact, but right now he is challenging 5'10 190 pound linebackers. Things will be different in the Big 10. He runs with reckless abandon, which is a good thing, but can he sustain that throughout a Big 10 season without being completely beat up by the end of the year?
Pass Catching/ Pass Blocking: Maybe he can catch the ball, maybe he can't. It's hard to tell because his team doesn't throw him the ball, and why would they, when handing it to him is safer and just as effective. The same goes with pass blocking. Jones doesn't have to pick up blitzes because the ball is usually in his hands anyway. One of the hardest things for a young back to adjust to is blitz pick up. He has the frame to be and excellent blocker, but it might take him some time to figure it out.
Markell Jones reminds me of Brandon Jones. They have the same build and the same style of running. If Markell can run like Brandon Jones and stay healthy (unlike Brandon unfortunately) while punishing Big 10 opponents, he will play an integral part in the Purdue resurrection. Welcome to Purdue Mr. Jones, enjoy your senior year, win another state championship, and show up in January ready to work. We're going to need your best from day 1.