One of the most impressive players during this spring’s football practices in Central Florida has been Lyman athlete Tony Jones, the Lake Howell transfer who says he feels like he’s “back home again.”
Now he feels like he fits in even more after getting his first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer from Mississippi State on Wednesday. He joins Lyman teammates LB Nico Firios, LB Greg Gooch and OL Brock Merritt as Greyhounds with FBS offers.
“Yes, I do feel like one of the boys now,” said Jones, who has put on about 15 pounds of what looks like solid muscle since last football season. “I was getting really anxious and now I’m excited about my first offer. It finally came and it just makes me want to work harder to get some more.”
He is being recruited by Mississippi State tight ends coach Scott Sallach, who likes Jones as a hybrid-type linebacker who can roam the defense like a free-wheeling safety.
“He said they watched the film and said I was great linebacker-safety material,” Jones said. “He said he likes how I’m vicious and he likes how I play the game.”
He had started to gain a reputation as one of the area’s better running backs after rushing for almost 1,000 yards at Lake Howell as a sophomore. Last season didn’t go as well for the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jones, so he wound up moving back into the Lyman zone.
“The transfer has gone great. I played Pop Warner in the Lyman area before we moved to the Lake Howell district, so I already knew most of these guys,” Jones said. “We moved back this year and it feels like I’m home again.
“I just feel a lot more comfortable and I don’t worry about things so much like making mistakes. I just go out there and do it and not worry if it’s right or wrong and learn from it. The coaches here have really helped me out.”
Even though it looked like running back was becoming his trade, Jones said he has always loved playing defense.
“Oh yeah, defense … that’s my spot,” he said. “I just play running back so I can get out there and I’m good at it, but I love to play defense.”
Jones, who is currently ranked No. 35 in the Sentinel's 2014 Central Florida Super60, said he is looking forward to making a few college visits this summer and also said he plans to get up to Starkville, Miss.
“They have a camp up there and [Coach Sallach] said he’ll show me around the campus and things like that,” said Jones, who plans to visit sometime between June 5-12. “I know a little bit about [Mississippi State] but I want to take a visit to learn a lot more.”
He’ll be awaiting more offers and said he’d love to see one from Florida State. He spoke briefly with FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett this spring and also plans to visit Tallahassee among his college trips this summer.
“I want to see as many colleges as I can this summer so I can get my name out there a little bit more,” Jones said. “I want to get some more offers and see what’s out there. Any offers would be good at this point.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.