Commitment from Ohio LB fills area of need for Kentucky

broberts@herald-leader.comMay 8, 2014 

Linebacker Jordan Jones has committed to Kentucky (247Sports photo)

One of the Kentucky football program's biggest areas of need got a little more help Thursday.

Ohio linebacker Jordan Jones announced his commitment to UK, which was the first school to extend a scholarship offer nearly four months ago.

Jones — listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds — has picked up offers from Oklahoma, Miami, Nebraska, Michigan State, West Virginia and several others in the time since, but the relationship he built with UK early in the process proved to be the deciding factor.

It's a major addition for Coach Mark Stoops, who is still trying to fill positions all over the field but arguably needs linebackers more than anything else moving forward.

Last month, UK picked up a commitment from Warren East standout Eli Brown, a four-star recruit who was the program's No. 1 target at linebacker. Jones might have been the next player on that wish list.

"They're building a roster full of high-talent guys," said Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt. "And that's important when you're playing in the SEC, where everybody runs 4.4 40-yard dashes and bench presses 400 pounds. You need those elite athletes to be able to compete week in and week out in the SEC. And that's what Stoops and company are doing in building that roster over the past couple of classes."

Scout.com and 247Sports consider Jones a three-star prospect in the class of 2015. He doesn't yet have a star ranking from Rivals, but Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader that he will start off as a three-star player when those rankings are updated later this month.

The Rivals analyst described Jones as "a high-upside player" but a prospect who has a history of "disappearing at times" on the field. More consistency during his senior season could lead to a higher ranking in the future.

"If he can find the consistency, that's going to be important," Helmholdt said. "He has the ability to make the athletic plays. That's what you want — guys who can play in space and guys who can play moving forward.

"Senior year is going to be big for him in terms of our evaluations. From an athletic standpoint, he has the tools. Is he able to turn those into being a great football player? That's the question."

Jones plays for Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio — the alma mater of Stoops and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow — and he led the team with 127 tackles last season, including 27 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles.

He played both middle linebacker and outside linebacker for Mooney in 2013, and Helmholdt projects him as a weakside linebacker in college.

"He checks all the boxes there," he said. "He can play in space, he can play moving backwards, he can come off the edge if needed. And that kind of gets him out of the traffic a little bit, which I think is a positive."

Jones is UK's eighth commitment for the class of 2015 and the third player from Ohio to choose the Wildcats.

Stoops and company could pick up another big recruit Friday.

Ohio tight end C.J. Conrad is planning to announce his college decision from his high school at 1:30 p.m., and he has said that he will commit to either UK or Indiana.

Rivals ranks Conrad as the No. 6 tight end and No. 174 overall recruit in the class of 2015, which would make him the fifth-highest-ranked prospect to commit to Kentucky under Stoops.

UK is widely viewed as the favorite going into Friday's announcement.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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