Minnesota Football Recruiting: RB Jeff Jones yet to academically qualify, future uncertain

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Highly touted running back Jeff Jones has failed to raise his ACT score high enough, according to the Star Tribune, leaving serious doubts about his immediate future with the Gopher football team.

The highest-rated recruit to commit to Minnesota during the Internet recruiting era has reportedly failed to register an ACT score high enough for enrollment this fall, according to a report from the Star Tribune.

Running back Jeff Jones needed to improve his ACT score in order to offset a rough year academically as a sophomore at Minneapolis Washburn; the NCAA determines eligibility through a process that combines report card grade-point averages as well as standardized test scores. As the Star Tribune's Joe Christensen previously reported, Jones improved his ACT score with an April test, but needed to do so again on June 14. Jones was a consensus four-star recruit and ranked as one of the top running backs nationally; Rivals.com and 247Sports.com each named him the seventh best running back in the country, while ESPN.com ranked him the 12th best running back nationally.

Jones isn't necessarily out for this fall and Christensen outlined a few possible options:

Jones also is re-taking two summer school classes, which could allow him to replace two low grades from earlier in his high school tenure with higher grades. That would raise his GPA, but it’s uncertain if it would be enough to qualify. Summer school ends July 10.

Plan A is for Jones to qualify for his scholarship.

Plan B is for Jones to go to Iowa Western Community College for two years.

But there’s a new wrinkle ahead of Plan B. Call it Plan 1A.

People familiar with Jones situation have said he could still end up at the University this fall. If he’s admitted, he wouldn’t be on scholarship, so he would have to take out a school loan.

He wouldn’t be eligible to work out with the football team. But he could get his feet settled in college and work out in the weight room with an eye toward competing for the Gophers in 2015. He would need to finish at least 24 University credits by the end of the 2015 summer session, with at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible to compete for the Gophers that fall.

The latter option might be best for the program, which would be similar to the process of gray shirting. Jones wouldn't lose any eligibility, and wouldn't leave for another school. What's best for Jones? That's probably a more murky question, but he joined what was becoming a crowded tailback spot this fall.

The Gophers return leading rusher David Cobb, Donnell Kirkwood and Roderick "Nugget" Williams, Jr., while also welcome redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards into the mix. Jerry Kill showed a willingness to bring running backs along more quickly than other positions in his first few seasons, but now that he has several of his own recruits with experience, Jones would need to first prove his knowledge of the offensive scheme in practice before receiving large chunks of playing time. While Jones certainly has big-play talent that can overcome that inexperience, he would have faced a difficult climb up the depth chart in his freshman year.

It might seem like a worse case scenario for Gopher fans, but another highly touted recruit that was also unable to qualify academically for his freshman year eventually ended up in Maroon and Gold. MarQueis Gray, currently a fullback with the Cleveland Browns, had his ACT score flagged and sat out a year while the NCAA Clearinghouse sorted out his academic issues. Gray eventually joined the team the following year without losing a year of eligibility.

For more about Jones, read Matt H's earlier "Scroll of the Sworn."

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