This is the second in our series of closer looks at Ohio State’s incoming freshman class. Last week we dove in on cornerback Tyreke Johnson, and as we continue with the 2018 early enrollees, we move a whole lot closer to the ball with future center Matt Jones.
Jones (6-4 315) comes to OSU from Erasmus Hall High School, which is the same school that produced former Buckeye Curtis Samuel and current Buckeye Jahsen Wint.
Ranked the No. 1 center in the 247Sports Composite, Jones spent time at both offensive tackle and center in high school. The time at tackle gives him some necessary experience as a pass blocker, and you can see his ability to move well in highlights from both spots.
Ohio State is looking at him as an interior offensive lineman, and likely the center of the future. Jones also has experience as a defensive tackle — and was once ranked as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the 2018 class. He displays strength in both pass blocking and run blocking, and finishes very well for a high school offensive lineman.
There is plenty for Buckeye fans to be excited about with Matt Jones, as you will see.
What To Like
The fact that Jones is an interior lineman with experience playing offensive tackle is huge. He showed the necessary feet to be put outside, and he brings that same spatial awareness to the interior when pass blocking and picking up inside blitzes.
And if there isn’t a blitz and somebody ventures inside without the necessary seriousness, this is the kind of thing that will happen.
Jones not only provides a throwing lane for his quarterback, but a running lane in case of a scramble as well. He cuts a wide path and can swivel and give a good push because of his low base. He’s too strong for high school, which is why it is best for everyone involved that he is now enrolled at Ohio State and in Mickey Marotti’s strength program.
With Jones already having experience as a pass blocker, he will be somewhat ahead of the game compared to offensive linemen who spend their time — be it at tackle or guard or center — in run-only offenses. Jones has played in a spread offense for years, and it has made him comfortable in one-on-one blocking situations.
As a run blocker, Jones is a plague for the defense. You can almost hear the Erasmus Hall sideline yelling to “bring out your dead” after running plays.
Watch him collapse the defensive line from his left tackle position here.
Don’t worry, he’s also a very effective run blocker from his eventual center position. And every trait here translates to guard as well. The two clips in the highlight below display Jones’ immediacy and his patience.
Matt Jones’ rankings give you a very good gauge on his potential. He is big, mobile, strong, and he shows the kind of temperament that is necessary at the line of scrimmage.
Highlights can be deceptive, but what we see from Jones in his reels is an offensive lineman that will play to the whistle. He finishes blocks when it is called for, and does more planting than Johnny Appleseed.
These clips are at left tackle, but you’ll get the idea.
And if you must see him put people on his back from the center position, here’s a couple of clips for you.
In terms of potential, Jones may have more than the last two Rimington Trophy winners (Pat Elflein and Billy Price) combined. Potential is always a dangerous word because, as Urban Meyer says, it just means you haven’t done anything yet. For Jones, it’s simply too early for him to prove anybody correct yet, but the tools are there to follow in the path of past Ohio State centers like LeCharles Bentley, Alex Stepanovich, Nick Mangold, Corey Linsley, Jacoby Boren, Elflein, and Price.
The expectations are that Matt Jones could put his name right along those mentioned above. There are no definites in recruiting, and Jones is not a surefire future star for the Buckeyes, but he has a better chance than most. Enrolling early will give him a good start, and the transfer of center Jack Wohlabaugh clears up some space and will allow more reps for Jones than would have happened without the transfer.
With the center position up for grabs this spring, upperclassmen will get the first — and longest — looks, so Jones may be on the outside looking in a bit this spring, but once the coaches are comfortable with their options at center, he should start getting more reps.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to run blocking, Matt Jones is basically the world’s worst Uber driver. You call him to come and pick you up and take you to a party, but he ends up dropping you off wherever he wants. And it’s usually a long way from where you wanted to go.
Jones may not play this year, but his future is very bright. He has the agility of a tackle, the strength to play anywhere, and the mentality to make everybody else pay for it.
He can pull, he can pass block, he can move the pile straight ahead, and he can seal. Like most offensive linemen, it may take a year or two until he starts seeing the field regularly. When he does, however, he should be fun to watch.