04 Sep

By

Horns Junior Jonesing to Make Impact Plays

Horns junior safety Brandon Jones & the Texas defense seek to make a statement this week. (Photo courtesy texassports.com)

When the Texas Longhorns football team needs to halt someone in their tracks, junior safety Brandon Jones is usually the one to come running to lay down the law.

Jones, the 6-foot, 200-pounder from Nacogdoches, is especially tough on quarterbacks.

Just ask West Virginia’s Will Grier. The Heisman Trophy-candidate was on the business end of a Jones tackle near the goal line last year in Morgantown that knocked Grier from the game and ended his season.

Jones made a similar stop last Saturday against Maryland, when quarterback Kasim Hill rolled right and tried to turn the corner toward the end zone and a touchdown that would have squashed any hopes Texas had to come back and win the season-opener. Sweeping across the field Jones ran to corral the speedy Hill, eventually forcing the Terrapins into a field goal.

Then in the final three minutes, with the Longhorns trailing 34-29, Jones nabbed a Maryland punt in the shadow of his own goal line and returned it to the Texas 33, cutting down considerably the Longhorns’ path to a win that never came. He also had another 33-yard punt return, the first one of the game, on which he got loose and nearly broke free to amplify the Horns hopes in the early going.

“Brandon was the guy that was going to catch it and the guy you trusted, on the road against a Power-Five opponent, in a pro stadium, first game of the year,” Texas coach Tom Herman said.

There's no hesitation to thrust him into trusted situations as Texas seeks sparks going into Week 2 and beyond.

“Brandon did surprise me … surprise is probably too hard of a word. But the intent of putting him back there was a guy with a lot of game experience, that also can run, but that you trust in an environment like the one we were facing," Herman said. “But he definitely showed some dynamism out there, especially the last one.”

Nickelback PJ Locke III agreed after the game.

Locke said Jones made several correct checks to get the Longhorns into proper coverage throughout the game, a role ready to grow going forward.

“He was out there really barking,” Locke said. “Sometimes at nickel, I can’t see what he sees on the back end because I’m so close to the line of scrimmage and he’s deep."

Jones juggling before the snap is a big benefit to Texas.

"I heard him talking all the way through," Locke added.

It'll be especially important to eye the safety's status leading into this week's game for just that reason. Late in the contest Jones suffered a high ankle sprain that would have prevented him from returning to the game, Herman said.

Using the NFL injury scale, the Texas head coach said Jones would be “questionable” for this week’s home opener versus Tulsa. The Longhorns, looking to make a statement this week, surely could use the sure-fire safety in the fold.

Steve Habel is a senior contributing writer for Horns Illustrated. He has covered Texas sports since 1989 and was this magazine’s senior editor for 24 years. You can follow him on twitter @stevehabel .