ST. PETERSBURG– When the week began, Jeff Jones was wearing a jersey without a number. During the 2014 Under Armour All-American game he made everyone remember his No. 21. Although Team Nitro lost to Team Highlight 31-21, the quick cutting Minnesotan with impressive acceleration earned MVP honors for Nitro. He told Gator Country he came down to Florida with something to prove.
“Before this week I was looking at the rankings; the day before the list came out I wasn’t invited on the official list,” Jones said. “I was looking at these kids and I knew they were great athletes but I knew I should have been in the same category. Next thing you know, God gave me an opportunity to come down here and prove what I said.”
He finished the game with 37 yards on six carries and added 35 yards to his all-purpose total with four receptions, including one for a touchdown. While he is a Minnesota commit, Jones was recently offered by the Florida Gators and will take a visit towards the end of January.
Jones isn’t the only Florida target that played well in the Under Armour game.
Five-star athlete Adoree’ Jackson wowed those in attendance when he scraped a sailing pass from Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight out of the the sky for a highlight reel interception. During the week, Jackson was critical of his own performance in practice, repeatedly grading himself as a “C.” Even though he made an impressive play –the game’s only interception– it didn’t change the evaluation that much.
“I got a pick, so I guess I’ll give me a C-plus today,” Jackson said, with a smile after the game.
Current Gators Jeff Driskel, Vernon Hargreaves III and Dante Fowler are among those that have played in the Under Armour game and then went on to wear the orange and blue. The game has routinely provided a showcase for talented Florida commits as well as UF recruiting targets that are among the best athletes in the nation, and the 2014 game was no different.
When the game kicked off, three players had offered verbals to Florida: cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Quincy Wilson as well as wide receiver Ermon Lane. By the time it was over, the Gators added another when defensive lineman Gerald Willis announced he would be a Gator starting January 6th when he will enroll early to Florida.
“I think I played well, you know; I learned a lot of stuff to work on but I think I did well,” Willis said.
He finished the game with two solo tackles and spoke in detail when talking about his personal performance. He says he needs to point his toe toward the quarterback during his speed rush, but said the coaches liked the way he shed blocks and made tackles.
Both J.C. Jackson and Lane each had touchdowns taken off the board in the game. J.C. Jackson returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown that was negated due to a penalty. He finished the game with three solo tackles.
Lane had an impressive sideline catch that the officials thought he dropped and ruled incomplete. With no instant replay challenges available, the call stood, and Lane was not allowed his 23-yard touchdown catch.
“Well it’s life, you know; it’s the refs call at the end of the day,” Lane said.
He finished the day with 35 yards receiving and four catches.
“I feel I played a solid game, not a good game,” Lane said. “We just came out here to have fun.”
Quincy Wilson had fun while playing a different role. He lined up at safety all week in practice and had one tackle during the game.
“They had me at a new position, you know,” Wilson said. “I was just learning on the run and I got in there and did what I can do.”
When fall practice starts this August, Florida fans hope Wilson, Lane, Willis, Jones and both Jacksons are all in new positions. Not necessarily on the football field but more importantly in life, beginning a new chapter with four years of college in Gainesville.