IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa freshman linebacker Amani Jones wasn’t available for comment this past Tuesday at a press conference, but he certainly was part of the conversation.
Thanks to his head coach.
“He certainly is in the mix,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters. “He’s got a real energy to him that’s good. He has a way of getting to the football and that’s important for a defensive player.
“He’s really demonstrated good maturity on the field. He still has a lot to learn like any first-year player, but yeah, he’s certainly in the mix.”
Jones is among a number of true freshmen, perhaps as many as 10, who could play this season, according to Ferentz.
Iowa will face Miami (Ohio) in the season opener on Sept. 3 at Kinnick Stadium.
Jones isn’t big for a linebacker, listed at just 6-foot and weighing 215 pounds. But the Chicago native compensates in ways as described by Ferentz and by fellow Hawkeye linebacker Ben Niemann.
“He’s a real physical player, that’s what I’ve taken away the most,” Niemann said of Jones, who is prohibited by Iowa from talking to the media as a true freshmen. “We had summer skills and drills. And once we put on the pads, he’s a totally different guy. He’s not afraid to stick his nose in there with the older guys.”
Jones previously was committed to Illinois, but switched to Iowa in June 2015 before his senior year at Phillips Academy High School in Chicago. He also had a scholarship offer from Indiana and from multiple schools in the Mid-American Conference.
The stability of the Iowa coaching staff, coupled with Iowa’s long-term success under Ferentz ultimately made the difference.
“The coaches have been there for a long time and they’ve won,” Jones said of Iowa shortly after picking the Hawkeyes.
Jones is used to winning after what he experienced in high school. He helped Phillips Academy win the Class 4A state title in Illinois as a senior last season. It marked the first time that a Chicago public school won a state title in football.
Jones could help immediately on special teams, which is often how a linebacker makes his first contribution for Iowa.
Defensive back Manny Rugamba also appears ready to help on special teams as a true freshman.
"I think there are a couple guys we have in mind," Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said without being specific. "We’re going to play them on special teams, whether they play on regular downs or sub-packages is yet to be seen.
"But I think there are two or three guys we can have there I think with Manny and Jones, so far in my opinion."