Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Jones proves his value amid O-line injuries
Arkansas offensive lineman Luke Jones against Tennessee during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — A grin came to Arkansas coach Sam Pittman’s face as he was asked about offensive lineman Luke Jones’ playing time against Georgia Southern.
Before a reporter finished the question, Pittman excitedly jumped in.
“That was awesome,” he said.
Amid injuries to center Ricky Stromberg and right tackle Dalton Wagner, which forced shuffling along the line in the 45-10 victory over the Eagles, Jones (6-5, 310 pounds) saw meaningful reps at left guard and performed well. His efforts helped the Razorbacks finish with 269 rushing yards, including 131 in the second half.
“I wanted to see Luke in there. I did,” Pittman said. “He was sweating and stuff. He was so happy. I hope he played well. It looked like he did. The D-line right now is playing eight or nine guys. We need to get the O-line to where we can get to eight and play them on a regular basis.
“I was really, really happy to see him in there. I love the kid; great kid and he works hard.”
Pittman’s eyes did not deceive him. Jones did play well over 25 snaps, recording an overall grade of 76.9, according to Pro Football Focus.
In 17 snaps as a run blocker, PFF gave him a grade of 75.9, and in eight plays in pass protection came in at 77.8. Each mark is vast improvement over a season ago, when his final grade was 49.2.
“He’s experienced,” Pittman said Wednesday when asked what Jones brings to the offensive line. “Luke has played a lot of ball for us. We have a lot of confidence in him. He’s had a good week of practice.
“He’s from our state, too, which is pretty cool. He’s a smart kid.”
Jones, who played high school football at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock and transferred to Arkansas after a year at Notre Dame, may have to count on that experience again this weekend against No. 7 Texas A&M and a talented defensive front that features DeMarvin Leal. He is third on the team with 13 tackles and leads the group with 3.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks.
Stromberg and Wagner did not practice Monday or Tuesday, and Pittman is uncertain of their availability for the CBS game of the week.
In their absence last week, Jones moved up to first-team left guard with Brady Latham shifting from left guard to right tackle.
“He’s a little bit like (Ty) Clary,” Pittman said. “He can play left tackle, he can play center. He's one of those centers we have, as well. He's very, very valuable to us.
"(Clary) didn't start Saturday, but the value he has on the team is incredible. Same with Jones."
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