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Player to Watch: Purdue’s Markell Jones

Purdue running back Markell Jones is one of the Big Ten’s better running backs. The problem is, he plays for Purdue.

Cincinnati v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

So we all know Purdue isn’t a good football team. Iowa’s not doing so hot either, so I’m not here to boast or brag about how the Hawkeyes are going to kill the Boilermakers, but rather to highlight the most interesting matchup (at least in my eyes) in this game.

We’re taking a look at Markell Jones, the best player head coach Darrell Hazell and Purdue have. (Disclosure, Jones will “probably” play this week, so my apologies if he doesn’t end up playing. That would be sad and I send apologies for wasting your time.)

In last year’s Iowa win in snowy Kinnick Stadium Jones — a 5-11, 210-pound sophomore — rushed 24 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, and was all-around pretty impressive. Granted, I had to watch some highlights to refresh my memory because I was distracted for a good portion of that game watching Purdue Pete get pummeled with snowballs, so I’ll assume you need to do some of the same.

A few takeaways here — first, Jones looks fast enough to be effective, but doesn’t have that burner ability like some guys. With that said, however, vision and shiftiness is able to make up for that lack of elite speed.

Second, I wouldn’t want to meet him in space. Apparently this Northwestern defender is in the same boat.

Read: this guy is a complete back.

So what has Jones been up to in his sophomore campaign? He’s sixth in the Big Ten in yards per game with 84.75 and two touchdowns. Purdue also rides him a good amount per contest (although that may not be the case this week given his injury), to the tune of over 18 times per game (sixth in the conference).

And now the question you’ve been waiting for, how will he stack up against the Hawkeyes, who own the conference’s eighth-best rushing defense? Well, the quick answer is pretty damn well if all goes according to plan, like it did last week.

In case you missed it yesterday, Rob, the smartest dude on our staff, explained how the Hawkeye defense saw success against Minnesota.

If that happens again, Iowa’s walking out with a win (and even if it doesn’t happen, Iowa should still win). But, to piggyback on what Rob had to say, execution is super, super important.

This is a talented defense, but there weak spots. Bo Bower’s play has been inconsistent, as has Greg Mabin’s, to name a few.

It’s, of course, up to a defensive lineman to create opportunities for the defenders behind him and make their lives easier. Whenever you see strong line play, you see offenses have a harder time moving the ball. Duh.

This is all to say the defensive line building off last week’s performance will play a huge factor in Iowa’s success, or lack thereof, against the Boilermakers. Shutting Jones down before he has a chance to get going causes those chances to skyrocket.