On Christmas Eve, Michigan landed the fifth member of its 2022 recruiting class and first offensive lineman in Colorado three-star Connor Jones.
Ranked 774th in the country, taking Jones this early is banking on Ed Warinner’s excellent ability to identify talent. To find what Warinner sees to make Jones one of his top targets in the class, I watched Palmer Ridge’s 42-20 win over Montrose this season, which is split into three parts on YouTube (part 2 of the first half is actually the start of the game).
Of course, Jones’ biggest selling point is his frame. At 6-foot-7, Jones is a true left tackle prospect. He has very high hips, giving him long legs that allow him to get depth quickly and in few steps while in pass pro. Jones is listed at 285 pounds, which makes him closer to his ideal playing weight than most guys his size in high school. He has a thick lower body and will be able to add the 20 pounds or so he needs to play in college.
Given someone with his height, Jones shows good knee bend and flexibility. In this play, Jones is in a three-point stance, which was rare but helps his leverage, and stays low when he fires out. The defensive end he’s facing is listed at 5-foot-10, but Jones keeps his knees bent and targets his chest, giving him control.
His hand placement showed up a lot more in his pass protection, which looks light years ahead of his run-blocking right now. Jones has good timing and placement on his punch to stun his defenders and stay in front. He also has good anchor, which allows him to sit back and not give up much ground as a defensive end tries to bull rush him.
This play is a good example of the bend and anchor that make him an effective pass protector. He stays low out of his stance, locks out the end with his long arms and forms up with a wide base to not cede more ground in the pocket.
However, that play also showcases one of Jones’ biggest flaws — his footwork. As discussed above, Jones has long legs that are great at getting depth against speed rushers. But often, Jones’ first step in pass protection won’t be deep enough, or will be more lateral than vertical.
On this play, Jones’ first step is way too wide as he lunges to the end instead of waiting and timing his punch for greater impact. When the end gets around him, Jones’ compensates and brings his feet too close together, throwing off his balance. He’s able to recover enough to get a shove in at the last minute and avoid a sack, which is great since the quarterback throws a 98-yard touchdown.
In the run game, his footwork is even worse. He doesn’t drive people off the ball, but he’s also not asked to do so a lot. Palmer Ridge throws the ball most of the time, but when they run it’s usually away from Jones’ side. So Jones will usually take a step inside and hinge outwards to just wall the defensive end off from the play.
But even when he doesn’t do this, Jones’ first step is often backwards instead of towards his target. On this play, Jones takes a small step with his right foot inside. This leaves him with no power and he’s basically just standing still. He catches the defensive end, who gets him on his heels and rips away, leaving Jones on his face.
Right now, I think Jones’ ranking as a low three-star could be moved up a bit to around where Davonte Miles is ranked, but it’s not too far off. He has everything you can’t teach, namely his great frame, but also has some gaping holes in his game that could make him a liability.
Like most 6-foot-7 prospects coming out of high school, it’s going to take a few years to get him ready for the next level. But while the priority for most of these guys is to reshape their body, Jones will have to work on developing his craft and becoming more technically sound.