Iowa already picked up two verbal commitments during this weekend's Hawkeye Tailgater recruiting event, but it turns out that they're not done yet. Ferentz & Co. added a future outside linebacker in Nick Niemann on Friday night and now they landed a future middle linebacker in Chicago prep Amani Jones, the 13th member of Iowa's 2016 recruiting class.
2016 LB Amani Jones from Illinois has flipped his commitment from Illinois to Iowa tonight. Iowa has him penciled in at middle LB.— Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport) June 21, 2015
What makes Jones' commitment even more delicious is the fact that he wasn't exactly uncommitted when he chose Iowa -- he was committed to Tim Beckman and Illinois. Landing a verbal commitment from a solid recruit? Good. Landing a prospect from a talent-rich area where Iowa needs to re-establish a pipeline? Even better. Flipping said prospect from a border rival? Priceless. How committed was Jones to Illinois? Well...
Former #Illini commit Amani Jones just helped work the Illinois satellite camp in Chicago-land. Flips to Iowa? Wow.— Doug Bucshon (@IllinoisRivals) June 21, 2015
Um... AWKward. Then again, maybe Jones finally met Tim Beckman and had a sobering realization:
So... what do we know about Jones? He's listed at 6'0", 215 lbs and he chose Iowa over offers from Illinois (duh), Indiana, and about half the MAC. Rivals, Scout, and 247 all consider him a 3* prospect. He's being projected as an inside linebacker -- middle linebacker, specifically. At 6'0", 215 lbs, Jones isn't the biggest guy around, but it's not too far off from Iowa's recent middle linebackers, either -- James Morris came to Iowa at 6'2", 215 lbs (and was up to 240 by the time he left Iowa), while Iowa's current starter at MLB, Josey Jewell, is listed at 6'2", 230 lbs. The two best MLBs of the Ferentz Era -- Abdul Hodge and Pat Angerer -- were both listed at 6'0", too. In other words, size should not be a problem for Jones.
Well, Jones certainly loves to lay a big hit -- in the first thirty seconds of that clip he complete plants a guy and hits another guy so hard his helmet comes off. Jones shows off some pretty good instincts in that clip -- he flows to the ballcarrier well and (as noted) finishes plays with gusto. His coverage skills don't get much of a workout in this clip and his athleticism looks good, but not great. But he looks like he could become a special teams contributor in short order at Iowa while honing his linebacker skills and waiting for an opening in the lineup.
Given that he flipped his verbal commitment from Illinois to Iowa rather suddenly -- and to the surprise of more than a few outside observers -- we'd be naive not to at least mention the fact that there several months until National Signing Day and plenty can (and likely will) happen before Jones (and any other recruit) puts pen to paper and makes his commitment binding. That's not to suggest that Jones will waver -- he seemed very impressed by Iowa during his visit and solid in his commitment now -- but given the circumstances, it's at least worth noting. In any event, welcome aboard, Mr. Jones -- good job seeing the light and picking the right UI to attend.