Prized recruit Jeff Jones is not expected to see game action for the Gophers football team this fall even if he qualifies academically, according to people close to the situation.
If Jones, who is attending summer school in an attempt to qualify academically, does clear the NCAA academic clearinghouse in coming days, the Minneapolis Washburn grad would likely redshirt with the Gophers. With practice set to open next Friday, the Gophers already have strong depth at running back, and Jones could use the year to get settled academically.
Three sources said Thursday they are still optimistic Jones will end up at the university this fall, but Iowa Western Community College remains an option if he doesn’t qualify. His academic standing is still in flux because his summer school classes, which could raise his overall grade-point average, have stretched into late July.
The Gophers hope to have an answer on whether Jones clears the NCAA clearinghouse and gains his scholarship before practice opens Aug. 1, but it could take until the following week. As the team awaits word on his NCAA eligibility, there’s also the question of whether Jones wll make it through the university’s admissions office.
Jones is right on the bubble of qualifying for his scholarship. The NCAA uses a sliding scale — with grades and test scores — to determine eligibility. Jones had a solid ACT score, but his grades weren’t high enough to quality for NCAA eligibility upon graduation from Washburn.
It’s still possible the NCAA will clear Jones, but even in that scenario, all signs point to a redshirt season. The Gophers’ running back depth chart has seniors David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood, junior Rodrick Williams and redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards. Jones would be getting a late start, as most of the team’s freshmen are already on campus, going through strength and conditioning workouts and captain’s practices.
It’s also possible that Jones will make it to the university as a partial qualifier. In that scenario, the NCAA would allow the Gophers to give Jones his scholarship, but he wouldn’t be eligible to practice or compete for one year.
For Jones, the third option remains playing two years at Iowa Western Community College. Non-qualifiers must spend at least two seasons at junior college — long enough to complete their associate degree — to obtain Division I eligibility.