Tyren Jones rushed for 2,375 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior in his first season with Walton. After committing to Alabama and putting on nearly 20 pounds of muscle over the summer, Jones is back, running hard toward another offensive player of the year award.
Last week at the Georgia Dome, Jones carried the ball 31 times for 302 yards while finding the end zone five times in a 35-24 Walton victory. As incredible as the numbers were, Walton head coach Rocky Hidalgo is used to seeing Jones turn in these types of games.
"He's had so many great games," said Hidalgo. "It is really hard to say which has been his best game, but he was really impressive Saturday night."
Despite last season's eye-popping numbers and the early success for 2012, Jones is still not ranked in the top 18 in two of four major recruiting services. Rivals.com has him listed as the third-best back in Georgia, just No. 26 in the country. Scout.com has him listed as the second-best back and No. 19 overall. ESPN has him pegged below Norcross' Alvin Kamara in the state and No. 8 overall. The final service, 247sports, has him ranked the fifth-best back in the entire country.
"He's incredibly competitive," said Hidalgo. "He wants to be the best back and it drives him."
Who are these backs and how in the world can they be better than Jones, who carried Walton to the state finals one year ago before scoring nearly every point for Walton last week?
Recruiting is a numbers game before anything else. Measureables are the best way to differentiate running backs when they play similar positions against far different competition. Jones' size ranges from 5-foot-9, 197 pounds on Scout.com to 5-foot-8, 202 pounds according to 247sports to 5-foot-8, 185 pounds according to Rivals, with ESPN rounding out the field with 5-foot-8, 190 pounds. Jones is somewhere in there, but his measureables have earned him four stars across the board from all four services.
Conversely, Scout.com's top back Ty Isaac out of Illinois, who is headed to USC, is listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. Stockton, California product Justin Davis, also committed to USC, checks in at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. Each of these players has earned five stars based largely on their height. Of the four other five-star prospects, only Keith Ford out of Cypress, Texas was under 6-foot-1.
The 40-yard time is also a measureable that could possibly have kept Jones from making it into the top 10 in all of the services. Jones posted a 4.57 time, behind players such as Ryan Green of St. Petersburg, Fla., (4.40), Kailo Moore of Rosedale, Miss., (4.44) and fellow Alabama Crimson Tide commit Altee Tenpenny out of North Little Rock, Ark., (4.42).
But numbers can be deceiving and sometimes it is the intangibles that make the difference.
"He is a great kid with great character," said Hidalgo. "His talent is overshadowed by how hard he works. He is talented in a lot of ways and I think is the total package."
Nick Saban seems to agree and the Alabama head coach is no doubt glad to have Jones verbally committed to his program. For now, Jones and the Raiders will go back to work on trying to finish off what they started last season, which was winning their first 14 games before falling to Grayson in the state championship game. Jones posted more than 2,300 yards and could have padded the stats even more, according to Hidalgo, had the Walton coaches played him in the second half of blowouts.
This season, expect Jones to possibly eclipse the totals from one year ago, especially with fellow Alabama pledge Parker McLeod under center for Walton making defenses think twice about putting nine in the box.
Hidalgo said the team would be working to improve in several areas on offense, including making strides with the offensive line. If the line can improve its play and avoid costly penalties, expect Jones to surpass the 300-yard mark quite often in 2012 and pick up some more hardware before heading off to Alabama.