Three years ago, the UCLA Bruinswon a major recruiting battle when they convinced former Gatorade player of the year Malcolm Jones to come play running back for them. They beat out Pac 12 powerhouses like Stanford, Oregon, and most importantly USC to sign the talented runner, who looked to be on his way to a bright collegiate career. Things haven’t gone to plan, however, and after two years of sporadic playing time, Jones has requested his release from the team.
The 6-foot, 220-pound junior came UCLA with a lot of potential, but failed to mesh well with the up-tempo, pistol offense that Rick Neuheisel implemented in his last two seasons. Jones was hopeful that his power-running style would be a better fit for Jim Mora‘s pro-style offense, but that hasn’t panned out either.
As the Bruins opened the season against Rice, Jones found himself as the fourth running back on the depth behind Jonathan Franklin, Jordon James, and Damien Thigpen. And after the Bruins dispatched Rice 49-24 with Jones getting on the field only in garbage time (rushing three times for 10 yards), the former prep star had enough and requested his release.
So what went wrong for Jones and UCLA? The running back himself admits “I’m not the fastest back,” which immediately put him at odds with the up-tempo attack that the Bruins have transitioned to over the last few seasons. All of the running backs ahead of him on the depth chart are quick, shifty backs that are much more natural fits in the Bruins spread offense.
That isn’t to say that Jones doesn’t have a skill set that will appeal to someone. He’s a bruising back who ran for 2,477 yards and 45 touchdowns his senior year at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, California. In two seasons with the Bruins, however, Jones carried the ball just 80 times for 303 yards. He feels that he could be able to be a good all-around back for some team this year, but not for UCLA.
Where Jones will land is still unknown as he continues to file the necessary paperwork to make his release official. Since he played in the game against Rice, he will need to petition the NCAA to preserve this year of eligibility. It’s likely that the NCAA will grant his petition because he played so little and because he hasn’t used his redshirt season yet.
Don’t expect Mora to be too broken up about Jones’ departure, however. While losing the fourth string running back (and fifth running option behind quarterback Brett Hundley) could be a minor inconvenience when trying to find guys for garbage time, it won’t affect the Bruins offensive gameplan moving forward. It’s just one less reminder of the swing-and-miss mistakes of the Neuheisel era.
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