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Better Know a Freshman: Kenan Jones

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Big, athletic receiver could beat expectations.

Being a less-heralded recruit isn’t always a bad thing. Much of the talk in the 2018 signing class revolves around a pair of big time receiver recruits in Terrace Marshall and JaMarr Chase. It’s easy to forget LSU actually signed four wideouts in this class. Even when they are remembered, most expect they’ll never climb ahead of the Marshall/Chase duo and probably ultimately fall behind guys like Devonta Lee and Trey Palmer who may sign this season.

And so we have Kenan Jones, a receiver with all the physical tools to be a no. 1 target and none of the expectations that come with it. That may be a blessing in disguise.

The Story

When Kenan Jones showed up for LSU camp in June of 2016, few knew who he was. In fact, the first article in the 247 database about Jones terms him a “sleeper.” But Jones impressed the coaching staff and then-receivers coach Dameyune Craig, by consistently running good routes and repeatedly getting open at LSU’s elite camp. He took an unofficial visit that fall and six months later, on another unofficial visit, Jones pulled the trigger on his verbal commitment to LSU.

Though he may have been an unknown heading into his Junior season, Jones showed up to a U.S. Army All-American combine. Steve Witfong at 247 named him as a member of the second all-camp team offense. At 6-3, 205 pounds, Jones was no longer an unknown in recruiting circles. Oregon offered. As did Ole Miss. A month after giving his verbal pledge, Jones decided to rethink things, backing off. In the interim, Florida State came through with their offer.

In May, Jones saw enough and quietly re-committed back to LSU, and then tweeted about it. You won’t believe what happened next. Jones didn’t bother taking any official visits. Not even to LSU. Considering he lives on the Atchafalaya River, in Berwick, just 1.5 hours from Baton Rouge and took multiple visits to the school, there existed no need. Jones completely shut things down with his second verbal commitment and then signed his letter of intent during the early signing period. That’s all she wrote.

The Numbers

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Rating: ****
247 Composite Ranking: .8958

Jones is yet another on-the-cusp four-star in LSU’s 2018 class. And yet again we see a guy with prototypical type athletic measurements that didn’t much bother with the camp circuit and thus didn’t get a ton of attention on the recruiting trail. He did get selected to the Offense-Defense All-American bowl, the least prestigious of All-American games.

I think Jones is pretty fairly ranked. He’s just outside the top 10 in Louisiana, and ranked in the high 300s nationally. It’s surprising to see a 6-3, 205-pound WR with offers from LSU, Oregon and FSU ranked as the 55th best WR in the class, but it was also an exceptionally loaded receiver class. Hell, Terrace Marshall wound up ranked third nationally and JaMarr Chase 15th. At any rate, beyond the top 30 or so at a position, we’re all just guessing.

He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 209, but that seems a bit on the tall and heavy side. It’s possible he’s grown and added muscle mass since his senior season. That’s a really great size at receiver. I’m interested to see him in camp and see how he looks next to other bigger receivers on the team. He’s a state champ in the long jump, high jump and triple jump. Think that may be useful?

The Film

Bigger receivers should physically dominate. You want to see them using size to their advantage against DBs, leaping over them for jump balls, bullying them out of press coverage, and using their bodies to wall them off for easy receptions.

One thing that immediately sticks out about Jones’ tape is that it’s evident his high school offense simply isn’t suited to his strengths. Or, perhaps more accurately, his QB. Though it is a spread passing attack, it looks much more West Coast, with your garden variety slants and short-screen passes. On opportunities downfield, Jones does look physically imposing, especially on the super-impressive leaping grab in the end zone.

I must say I did come away super impressed by his suddenness in the short passing game. Jones can hit top speed in a hurry and he really does get moving. There’s an extra gear there. He’s the type of guy that can nab a slant and hit paydirt. And he’s pretty good with the ball in his hands after the catch. Short catches, quick moves in the open field. He may play in the screen game better than you might anticipate someone of his stature.

Ultimately, though, I think his best game will be like the catches at 2:20. Send him down field and let him go up and get the football. He should be a big, outside target that abuses defenders. He adds value as someone you toss in the slot and create mismatches with.

If you go back to the Junior tape, the hands look pretty good. He’ll need to refine some of the technical pieces of being a receiver, but what’s new?

The Future

We talk about it frequently, but LSU is looking for breakout talents out wide. There’s a list of who’s who recruits on the roster that we all expected to eventually be No. 1 targets and superstars. It hasn’t happened. Now, attention turns to transfer Jonathan Giles. Beyond him, it looks like an open race for spots in Ensminger’s new pass-friendly approach. Thus, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of any freshman showing out enough to get some run. Hell, there’s 11 guys at the receiver position now and LSU very well could use them all if Ensminger really wants to push the pace a bit this season. Running all those routes takes fresh legs.

I don’t expect him to redshirt. He doesn’t need to add much size, even if I don’t fully trust the 209 pounds they list. He probably needs technical refinement, but he can learn that and still play. He’s not going to be counted on to be one of the top contributors. His job is to run a selection of routes when asked. Go out there and get yourself open, kid.

I like him long term. He’s got some Brandon LaFell to him, but I think he’s a better overall athlete. Could he surprise and pass up someone like Chase or Marshall? I’m not counting on it, but it wouldn’t totally shock me either. He’s got some nice tools. There’s plenty reason to be optimistic here.

High End: All-Conference wide receiver.
Low End: Never cracks the depth chart. Special teams gunner.
Realistic: One or two year starter. Quality contributor. Never a star but has moments.