When 4-star lineman Matthew Jones committed to Ohio State on Saturday, he gave the Buckeyes one of the best defensive tackles in the 2018 class. He also gave the Buckeyes one of the best offensive linemen in the 2018 class.
Jones is arguably the top two-way lineman in high school football, so where he ultimately ends up at Ohio State won’t truly be known until he gets knee deep into his first (or second) Buckeye camp.
Matthew Jones (6-4 315) committed to Ohio State over offers from Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, LSU, Florida, and many, many others. He is rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation per the 247Sports Composite and the No. 53 player overall.
He plays for Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York, which is the same school that sent Curtis Samuel to Ohio State.
Jones plays nose tackle on defense and left tackle on offense. He plays both positions with a desire to finish each play by putting somebody into the ground. When he pulls as a left tackle, he sees it as free violence.
He is mobile and finds defenders to block. He’ll drive them if need be, but he’s also able to simply bully smaller players around with a big-brotherly shove.
The first play on Matthew Jones' junior highlights… pic.twitter.com/vZRR08JyBg
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) June 19, 2017
Jones was a First-Team All-State honoree at left tackle last season. He projects to the interior offensive line in college, but the fact that he excels at tackle now is a good sign. He’s already getting good experience as a pass blocker. He’s not a reacher, he moves his feet and stays between his man and the quarterback. As a run blocker, he can evacuate an entire right side of a defensive line by crashing down.
Watching Matthew Jones toss around defensive linemen and linebackers like the biggest man in a battle royal, the first comparison that comes to mind is Wyatt Davis. Davis was a 5-star offensive guard in the 2017 class for the Buckeyes. Like Jones, he projects inside, but both played outside at tackle in high school. Davis has a history of treating the front seven with less hospitality than a 19th century British orphanage.
Exhibit D: Wyatt Davis pic.twitter.com/Do4h8gxYGE
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) February 26, 2017
Another comparison would be current Ohio State center Billy Price. Price came to Ohio State as a defensive tackle, and way before he enrolled, Ohio high school football scout John McCallister told me on more than one occasion that he liked Price as a run blocker. Both Price and Jones are right around 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, though Price carries his weight much differently, as would be expected.
Price was able to start as a redshirt freshman, and Davis is expected to push for playing time as a true freshman. If Jones could factor in similarly upon his arrival, then that would be a welcome addition to a unit that is always looking for numbers.
An offense can’t play power football without power, and Jones provides plenty of it. He is mobile enough to knock one defender off balance before heading to the second level and providing a longer-lasting lane for a ball carrier. He isn’t slow on his pulls, so he wouldn’t provide a timing issue for an offense that is going to run the ball between the tackles for four quarters. Basically, he’s a tough kid and that’s going to be key to fitting in to this Ohio State offense. The fact that he has a history as a pass blocker should allow him to pick up things a bit quicker than some of the high school offensive linemen who have only ever known option football.
The Depth Chart
There will be a good mix of interior offensive linemen on the Ohio State roster when Matthew Jones finally arrives. The Buckeyes should be returning both starters at the position in Michael Jordan and whoever wins the right guard spot. The question is whether Jordan or perhaps Malcolm Pridgeon would move out to offensive tackle when Jamarco Jones leaves. That would create a hole that definitely needs filled.
The aforementioned Wyatt Davis is going to have a say, as is his fellow 2017 freshman Josh Myers. Myers enrolled early and has already acclimated to the weight room. Then you have players who will be in their third years in the program next season, like Jack Wohlabaugh and Gavin Cupp. That’s without even mentioning other veterans. Jones will have an opportunity to work his way into the two-deep as a rookie, but recruiting over the past couple of years will make playing time hard to come by in 2018.
The good thing about recruiting a player like Matthew Jones is that if it doesn’t work out on the offensive line, he’s got options. Billy Price came to Ohio State as a defensive tackle. They realized pretty early on that he would do better on offense. The coaches always knew that was a possibility, so they didn’t waste a year of his time working on a bad fit. Also, as Urban Meyer has said in the past, the versatile player will be moved where the need is greater.
So what does the future look like for Matthew Jones? His versatility will allow him to light the way in what is a bit of an unsure path. He is currently being recruited as an offensive lineman. As you can see in his highlights above, however, he can do a couple of different things. The good news for the Buckeyes, is that both of those things involve making the day worse for the man across from him.
[Matthew Jones photo courtesy of Scout.com]