Washington-Marion’s Freddie Harrison has only been coaching for about 10 years but in that decade, he knows he’s never had a player like Melvin Jones.
“Melvin is a difference maker,” Harrison said Friday after his star player became LSU’s 17th commitment for the Class of 2013. “I compare him to a big cat — a lion or a tiger. He’s big, powerful, agile, explosive — a rare breed of kid.”
The national recruiting services primarily list Jones (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) as an inside or middle linebacker, and that’s where he is likely to wind up at LSU.
But to Harrison, that’s typecasting Jones way too much.
“He’s so versatile,” Harrison said. “I’d play him at any position on the field except for cornerback.
“We’ll play him at safety, tight end, wide receiver, tailback and you’ll see him at quarterback and on the defensive line. And you should see this kid punting. He averaged about 38 yards a kick last season.
“He’s just that gem us coaches wish for.”
Jones earned Class 4A All-State honors at linebacker in 2011 where he tallied 125 tackles. But he also moved over to play quarterback for Washington-Marion midway through the season, where Harrison said he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in just five games.
“That performance right there says he’s one of the better players in the state,” Harrison said.
A four-star prospect according to Rivals, Scout and 24/7 Sports, Jones is ranked No. 148 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247 and No. 174 on the Scout 300. Jones is ranked as the nation’s fourth-best inside linebacker prospect by 24/7 Sports, No. 8 middle linebacker by Scout and No. 15 inside linebacker by Rivals.
ESPN is less definitive on Jones, ranking him with three stars as the No. 67 athlete prospect nationally and No. 21 in the state overall. Rivals ranks Jones No. 15 among Louisiana prospects, while 24/7 Sports rates him as the state’s seventh-best prospect.
Jones’ commitment is the Tigers first for 2013 at linebacker. This follows a concerted effort to shore up the linebacker position with six signees in the Class of 2012: Kwon Alexander, Trey Granier, Deion Jones, Lamar Louis, Lorenzo Phillips and Ronnie Feist.
Jones is the 10th LSU commitment from a Louisiana prospect and comes after a string of seven straight commitments from out of state, capped by quarterback Anthony Jennings (6-2, 205) of Marietta, Ga., three weeks ago.
LSU came late to the Jones recruiting party.
Alabama was the first to offer, Harrison said, making Louisiana native Burton Burns his lead recruiter.
Jones was also offered by the likes of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Tulane, Oklahoma State and Nebraska, where former LSU grad assistant and Northwestern State standout Terry Joseph recruited him. Add to that the fact that Jones’ father Troy played running back at Texas A&M.
But first-year LSU assistant Adam Henry — a Beaumont, Texas, native who played wide receiver at McNeese State — turned back the Crimson Tide and the Aggies for Melvin Jones’ pledge.
“He did a great job coming in late and getting the ball rolling with Melvin,” Harrison said of Henry. “Trying to build a relationship with Melvin is hard because he doesn’t like to talk. But he embraced coach Henry.
“He’s excited about going to LSU. He did his homework. He’s excited about his possibilities at LSU and that his family can come see him every Saturday and representing his state trying to win a national championship.”
Harrison said Jones’ father didn’t try to sway him toward following in his footsteps to Texas A&M, which recently received a pledge from former LSU commitment Kyrion Parker (6-2, 185), a wide receiver from Manvel, Texas.
“He (Troy Jones) knows the recruiting game and just made sure his son was prepared and didn’t force his hand,” Harrison said. “He wanted to make sure his son wound up in the best situation to be successful.”
Jones would be the Tigers’ first player from Washington-Marion since offensive guard Nate Livings, who lettered from 2003-05.
Former All-Southeastern Conference wide receiver/kick returner Eddie Kennison (1993-95) also attended Washington-Marion.