A list that started with more than 40 schools was eventually pared down to 10. Countless conversations with college coaches and interviews with media outlets took place during that process, and will continue to occur throughout the next several months. But for Cyrus Jones, the chaotic existence of being a highly coveted four-star recruit has never been a bother.
“It wasn’t as hectic as I thought it was going to be. I think I’ve managed it well,” said Jones, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound wide receiver and cornerback. “It’s a pretty enjoyable process. It’s stressful at times, with calls and things like that. But it’s been reassuring, just to see my hard work paying off.”
Jones has picked up right where Virginia freshman Darius Jennings – his former Gilman teammate – left off as Baltimore’s most heavily recruited senior football prospect. For proof of that, look no further than Jones’ Top 10: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Maryland, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
A high-profile recruitment is something Jones has gotten used to over time. Thanks to an All-Metro 2010 season at cornerback in which he also accumulated 1,240 all-purpose yards and scored nine touchdowns running, receiving and returning kicks, Jones earned most of his scholarship offers before winter break of his junior year.
“You pretty much know when you get offers, the schools you’re going to be strongly interested in,” Jones said. “Coming into the process, there are schools that catch your eye. ... You weed through the first ones, focus on schools you’re seriously interested in. It’s going pretty well.”Some schools on the list have obvious ties to Jones. His father – Dunbar boys basketball coach Cyrus Jones Sr. – played basketball at West Virginia. Ohio State has recruited several players at Gilman before, and Greyhounds assistant Stan White is a Buckeye legend. Virginia, of course, features Jennings.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Jones said. “It’s a plus. … I’ve visited down there and I really like Coach Mike London and what he’s done with the program. It’s close to home. It doesn’t hurt that Darius is there. … As far as West Virginia and my father going there, that’ll be a great plus, but it’s not really why I’m interested in them. I just like their coaching staff. I’m interested in seeing what they do offensively this season under Coach [Dana] Holgorsen. It looks like they’re moving in the right direction.
“Every school that’s on my list has something unique that stands out about them. All of them are real good academic opportunities, which is a big aspect as far as my recruitment goes. And all of them have great football.”
There’s also the possibility of staying close to home and playing for Maryland. Jones said location is not a factor at all in his recruitment, and proximity is “not really” why he’s considering the Terps.
“I’m just real excited to see what they do this year,” Jones said. “Coach Randy Edsall is a real good guy. My cornerbacks coach at Gilman (Keith Kormanik) actually played for him [when Edsall was the defensive backs coach at Boston College]. He just kind of helped me to get to know him more. He showed me what he did when he was at school. I’m just looking forward to seeing how they do.”
Much of the buzz surrounding Jones’ recruitment has centered on two of college football’s most bitter rivals: Auburn and Alabama. Jones said the Tigers and Crimson Tide “have been recruiting me the hardest” since the beginning of his junior season.
“I like them a lot, probably just a little bit more than everyone else,” Jones said. “They’ve been real consistent and I have great relationships with the coaching staffs. It’s in the SEC, so it’s the top level of competition in college football.”
Jones said the coaching staffs at Auburn and Alabama are torn about what position he’d play in college. The Tigers initially said he’d be a corner, but have also discussed plans to use him in the Wildcat and find other ways to get him the ball on offense. Alabama, meanwhile, has talked about playing Jones in the slot, on kick returns, and in some nickel packages.
“It’s really a toss-up on what I want to play,” Jones said.
Jones has tentative plans to announce his college decision at the Under Armour All-American Game in January. He has scheduled official visits to Virginia Tech (Sept. 17) and Notre Dame (Oct. 22), and plans to set up official trips to Auburn and Alabama as well. He’s unsure what school will receive his fifth visit, but is committed to taking a fifth trip.
“Alabama and Auburn, I just felt real comfortable when I went down there and visited,” Jones said. “Virginia Tech, I haven’t visited yet. I haven’t visited Notre Dame, and that’s a faraway school. Why not use an official visit to see them when I don’t have to pay for it? That’s kind of my mindset for using my visits.”
In Gilman’s first game of the season – a 68-9 win over Maryland Christian – Jones had a 34-yard touchdown run, a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown. Finding a college that allows Jones to showcase that kind of versatility will be priority No. 1 after his senior season ends.
“I just want to put myself in the best position for success to get to the next level,” Jones said. “That’s my goal.”
Baltimore Sun photo of Cyrus Jones by Karl Merton Ferron / Sept. 4, 2010