As a fan, I am worried about Markell Jones when it comes to football.
Now, if you know anything about football in Columbus, you might be chuckling right about now. Worry about Markell?
I admit, that sounds kind of funny. After watching him leap tall buildings with a single bound for four seasons at Columbus East High School, it would seem kind of silly to worry about anything having to do with Jones and a football field.
But here is the deal. Jones is very, very good on a football field. Purdue, his university of choice, is not very good when it comes to football. Something has to give.
Now, if you happen to be a defensive lineman, you can still shine if your team lands at the bottom of the conference. The same can be said for a linebacker or a cornerback.
But if you are a running back, or for that matter a quarterback, on a bad team, everything becomes a bit fuzzy. People forget that you are getting hit 3 yards in the backfield every play. They only remember your final numbers.
Jones, who posted the greatest season in state history by a high school running back in 2014, chose Purdue mostly because he wanted to be a pilot and the aviation program there is outstanding. It shows that he is about more than carrying a football. You have to love his character.
Unfortunately, his decision might eventually cost him a whole lot of yards. As a selfish fan, I wonder what might have happened if Jones chose a place like Cincinnati, which has the ability to put up some huge offensive numbers.
Now this all could change if Purdue head coach Darrell Hazel turns the program around. Purdue has posted losing seasons six of the past seven years (7-6 in 2011). Do you see Hazell changing that direction this season? I’m sorry, but I really don’t.
What’s more, I believe Jones will be inserted into the starting lineup in the near future. He currently is playing behind sophomore D.J. Knox but he already has more rushing yards (229 to 209) in fewer carries (32 to 46) and has scored more touchdowns (4 to 1) than Knox.
Jones also is just as fast as Knox and is a bigger, stronger version of running back. The writing is on the wall.
It would seem to be great news for Jones, who very well could become a starter his true freshman season in the Big Ten. But here comes my worry.
In his team’s current state, Jones is going to take a lot of punishment. Opponents quickly will learn that he is a key weapon and he is going to garner most of the attention.
When the game was on the line in the first half Saturday at Purdue, Virginia Tech pounded anyone attempting to carry the ball past the line of scrimmage. Knox, who couldn’t take two strides without taking a first hit, finished with 16 yards rushing on eight carries. His longest run was 4 yards. What’s going to happen to Purdue running backs against Michigan State?
Right now, I see Purdue as a team that sets up the run with the pass. When the Boilermakers try to establish a running game, they don’t seem to be very good at it.
Can the Boilermakers rely on the running attack to win games? Even with every offensive lineman back from last season, it is doubtful.
I am sure that Hazel would like to bring his true freshman running back along slowly, but if the season begins to get away, Hazel will have to take some chances. That will include feeding Jones to the wolves.
It’s a fight that Jones is prepared to handle considering his speed, strength and talent.
In this case, though, he appears to be outnumbered.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.