By Rob Moseley
A year ago, J.J. Jones was a fan of Oregon football like any other university freshman. This fall, he’s an integral part of the Ducks’ success.
Jones, a native of Los Angeles, is a scout-team running back this season. He was tagged by Oregon’s graduate assistant coaches as a particularly valuable practice player this week, as the Ducks prepared to face Washington State on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Jones, 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, played both ways and on special teams for Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, Calif. But a knee injury ended his senior year, and the resulting surgery hampered his preparations for an unsuccessful walk-on tryout with the Ducks last year.
Jones had passed up a Division-II scholarship and enrolled at Oregon to pursue journalism. In a sign that he’s smart as well as athletic, he soon changed his major to business, and calls football “an extra bonus” to his collegiate experience.
In the spring, he learned he’d have another chance with football once classes started this fall. That helped motivate him through summer training, teaching him discipline and goal-setting while he waited for his chance to arrive, he said.
Each week since, he’s taken his lumps against Oregon’s big, physical defensive front.
“I take it as my time to show the coaches what I have to offer,” Jones said of his scout-team work. “I’m going against the No. 2 defense in the country right now, so what better practice to get? It’s a great opportunity to work on my skills and at the same time help the team out.”
Jones is a quick little runner with the skills to bounce outside and make yardage. But he’s learned to be disciplined as well, to follow the assignments that Ducks expect their opponents to use in games.
“Starting off was a little difficult; I was doing my own thing,” Jones said. “They told me what I need to do to give them a good look, and after watching film I really saw how – when we get to the game – how much it helps. I don’t get frustrated. I’m happy we’re doing well, because I know I was a big part of that during the week.”
Other observations: The Ducks are practicing without offensive lineman James Euscher, who has taken a medical retirement. Euscher, a sophomore from Aloha, played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman reserve last season. He did not make an appearance this fall. … During the scout-team scrimmage prior to “Fast Friday” this morning, the defensive line stood out most to me. T.J. Daniel continues to impress in his transition from tight end, and freshman Jason Sloan out of Salem also was in on a couple plays. Linebacker Brett Bafaro had an interception on a tipped pass. … The team wore its pink cleats again, continuing to break them in. All told, it looks to me there are about six or seven different models favored by various players.