Sleeper recruit Conelius Jones is Michigan's type of quarterback
Michigan went through its worst season in modern college football history 2 years ago woefully ill-equipped at quarterback.
Now, the position is one of promising strength.
Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson played last year as true freshmen, blue-chip recruit Devin Gardner begins classes Tuesday as an early enrollee, and forgotten prospect Conelius Jones might be the biggest sleeper in Michigan’s 2010 recruiting class.
Jones committed to Michigan last spring over Duke, Stanford and Wake Forest - Clemson and North Carolina turned up the recruiting heat this year - in part because the Wolverines were the first to offer a scholarship.
Michigan began recruiting Jones during the spring of his sophomore year at Spartanburg (S.C.) High, before he had ever played a down of high school football.
Coaches saw film of Jones from spring practice, heard glowing reports about his athleticism from Spartanburg coach Freddie Brown, a former college coach at Wofford, and offered Jones after an eye-popping performance in his spring football game.
Their gamble paid off when Jones turned out to be one of the most dynamic athletes in South Carolina this year.
He led Spartanburg on a surprising run to the state semifinals, running for 771 yards and 17 touchdowns and throwing for 1,603 yards and 8 more scores.Taking out sacks, Jones would have rushed for more than 1,100 yards.
"What I look at when I see him, guys that have come through like Woody Dantzler at Clemson, Pat White," Spartanburg coach Freddie Brown said. "Athletic quarterback, pull it down, run it, throw it guy. He can be a 50-50 (run-pass) guy. A guy that probably runs it a little bit better than he throws it, but Conelius can throw it, too."
If that sounds a little bit like Robinson, Michigan's raw, run-first backup, it's not by accident.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez helped develop the dual-threat Dantzler at Clemson and won
big with the elusive White at West Virginia, and while some have speculated Jones will eventually move to receiver or defensive back, Brown insists his best
position is quarterback.
"Conelius was offered in person by Coach (David) Cutcliffe up at Duke," Brown said. "He really liked his throwing mechanics. Here’s a guy that’s put two of the better quarterbacks in the league in the Manning boys (Peyton and Eli, who he coached at Tennessee and Ole Miss, respectively). He understands throwing, so I feel good about his evaluation of him."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jones said he's not worried about arriving on campus this summer last on Michigan's four-man depth chart at quarterback.
"Competition," he said. "When I get up there with some good competition, just got to compete, try to win the spot."
And he's not worried about one day switching positions, either.
“I’m a quarterback," Jones said. "But I wouldn’t have any problem with not being” one.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.