11. Marcus Jones | WR/KR | Sophomore | 5'8” 170 lbs. G REC YDS AVG. TD KR AVG. KRTD 7 9 142 15.8 1 13 28.5 1 Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletic Department 11A. Devin Crawford-Tufts
One of the bright spots in a largely ugly season, Marcus Jones displayed speed and athleticism that was sorely needed in Dinkytown. A high school cornerback, Jones was moved to wide receiver in hopes of using his speed on pitchouts and screens. Although his hands are something that will need to improve as he progresses, his shiftiness was easy to spot early on.
Although Jones dropped what would have been a sure touchdown against Purdue, he returned a kick 92 yards for a touchdown in that game as well. Against Michigan Jones returned another kickoff for a touchdown, although it was negated by a clipping penalty. (Worth noting: The penalty occurred after Jones had already run by both players, ultimately not impacting the play.) But as Jones was starting to come into his own, he tore an ACL in practice. It’s hard to chart a player’s “competitiveness” without sounding like you’re trying to describe a player who is overcompensating for a lack of physical gifts, but while Jones is fast, he’s also a strong competitor who doesn’t give up. His return from ACL surgery gives us evidence of that.
Considering the typical recovery period for that injury is a year, at least, it was quite surprising to read rave reviews about Jones’s speedy recovery. When I wrote about incoming freshmen wide receivers who could possibly play this year, I figured Jones wouldn’t be ready to contribute much this fall. I surely didn’t think he would be running around during spring practice. Now, it seems like Jones will be medically cleared and ready to play when preseason camp opens this August. If Jones is able to contribute, he pairs with Troy Stoudermire to give the Gophers two strong kick returners, as well as gives the offense a threat on bubble screens and possibly toss sweeps. Jones will never be a receiver who catches 50 balls in a season, but if he could build himself into the mold of a very poor man’s Percy Harvin, the Gophers would be lucky. Newcomer Jamel Harbison promises to be a more dynamic receiver than Jones, although it’s unclear how much he will play as a true freshman. It’s worth noting that Harbison is also a quick player well suited for the slot and is much more polished at the position.
Fans should expect Jones to add to the return game again this year and possibly add a catch here and there each week. His biggest directive, like many of the receivers, will be improving his hands when he is thrown the ball. MarQueis Gray hasn’t been the most accurate of quarterbacks, so all of the receivers will need to take advantage of the chances they are given. This is a mantra that I end up repeating throughout these player capsules: the Gophers just aren’t good enough to offset mistakes and lost opportunities.
Jones’s remarkable recovery timetable does make me a bit nervous though, in terms of possibly re-injuring his knee. That possibility made me place Devin Crawford-Tufts at 11A on this list. If Jones can’t play, Crawford-Tufts seemingly becomes the deep threat who needs to take the safeties downfield. The two receivers shared the team’s “Outstanding Offensive Freshman of the Year” honors and Crawford-Tufts ended the season with eight catches for 156 yards. A state champion in track, Crawford-Tufts can also run well and at this point possesses better hands than Jones.