U plucks quarterback out of SEC country

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2013 - 7:02 PM

Georgian Donovahn Jones had a change of heart at the last minute, choosing to bring his dual-threat game north.

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Dutchtown quarterback and Minnesota signee Donovahn Jones.

Photo: , Dml - Brian Paglia

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Any coach loves a good recruiting tip, and plenty of well-meaning friends have bent Brian Anderson's ear over the years, telling him about the neighbor or nephew he just had to see.

The Gophers running backs coach always listens. But he was admittedly skeptical when his older brother, Kevin, first told him about Donovahn Jones, the son of an old family friend.

"I'm going, 'Are you kidding me?'" Anderson said. "For one, his dad's not a tall guy. He's 5-6, 5-7 -- built like me -- and his son's 6-3 and one of the best athletes I've ever seen. I'm watching the video of this kid, going, 'Wow.'"

The story of how the Gophers just landed Jones, a Georgia high school recruit with five offers from SEC schools, actually begins in Rockford, Ill. That's where Kevin Anderson and Lamont Jones grew up as close friends, with Brian tagging along, three years behind them.

"I was basically the little one following those guys all around all the time," Anderson said.

In 2001, Anderson joined Jerry Kill's coaching staff at Southern Illinois, moving with the head coach to Northern Illinois and then to Minnesota. Meanwhile, when Donovahn Jones was a seventh-grader, Lamont moved the family from Rockford to the Atlanta suburbs. By his junior year, Jones had emerged as a football and basketball standout at Dutchtown High School.

"It was surreal to watch this kid and the things he did -- not just on the football field, but also on the basketball court," Anderson said.

Terry Herrod, Dutchtown's basketball coach and associate football coach, said Jones has a 39-inch vertical, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds and can throw a football 70 yards.

Herrod said Jones had offers from 28 FBS (Division I) schools, including five from the SEC -- Missouri, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Kentucky. He plays quarterback, but most schools recruited him to play wide receiver.

"He could probably step on the field right now [for Minnesota] and start at receiver," Herrod said. "That's how athletic he is. But with the proper coaching, he can be a dual-threat quarterback of enormous potential."

Jones became a major focal point of the Gophers' recruiting efforts, even though they signed two quarterbacks last year -- Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner -- and received an early commitment this year from another dual-threat quarterback, Chris Streveler.

The Gophers promised Jones a shot at quarterback, knowing wide receiver is a fallback option. The relationship he formed with Anderson and Kill convinced him they have his best interests at heart. Jones threw for 1,609 yards and rushed for 634 yards last fall, earning honorable mention All-State honors. He made a verbal commitment to Missouri but flipped to Minnesota on Tuesday, one day before National Signing Day.

Anderson laid the groundwork, and Kill showed how serious the Gophers were, spending six hours with Jones last summer on his unofficial visit to the U.

"My relationship with Coach Kill, ultimately, was the deciding factor," Jones said. "The position didn't really matter because I'm willing to play quarterback or receiver."

Nelson is the incumbent starter, and it would make sense for the Gophers to redshirt Jones and/or Streveler, creating a two-year separation between present and future quarterbacks.

"With our situation at quarterback, we don't have to be in a hurry with [Jones]," Anderson said. "You don't have to sit there and say, 'Get him on the field right away; move him to receiver.' He could be a three-year starting quarterback or whatever. And if not, you could move him, and he could be an All-Big Ten receiver."

Herrod said Jones could easily carry 25 more pounds of muscle on his lean 190-pound frame, and the coach is sure he'll put in the work.

"He's very humble," Herrod said. "He's a really good kid. You're not going to have to worry about him hanging out in Minneapolis. He'll be in his dorm room. He's an old soul."

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