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    Home / College Guide / Houston’s Marcus Jones merits Heisman consideration on several fronts
     Posted on Thursday, November 25 @ 00:00:09 PST

    Thereu2019s a reason Marcus Jonesu2019 nickname inside the University of Houston locker room is Mr. Versatile. Need a defensive stop? Jones, a shutdown cornerback, will stretch out for a pass breakup or make an acrobatic, one-handed grab for an interception. Need an explosive play in the return game? Thereu2019s Jones going coast-to-coast for a 100-yard kickoff return, not once but twice, in a late October upset of SMU. Need a wide receiver? Jones has dabbled some on offense, too, hauling in one touchdown. u201cHe is the most versatile player in college football,u201d UH coach Dana Holgorsen said. u201cYou canu2019t deny that. Heu2019s that kind of talent. He can change the game.u201d Which begs the question: Why isnu2019t Jones getting more mention for the Heisman Trophy? The deck already is stacked against Jones. Michiganu2019s Charles Woodson, like Jones a two-way player who excelled as a kick returner, is the only defensive player to win the Heisman. Since 2001, 17 quarterbacks have won college footballu2019s top individual award, and this year figures to be no different with Bryce Young (Alabama) and C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) considered the favorites heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

    Players from schools outside the Power Five conferences rarely get a mention, which makes Jones arguably one of the best players nobody is talking about. While heu2019s unlikely to gather enough support to be among the finalists to attend the Dec. 11 ceremony in New York, Jones said it would be an honor to even get a vote from the Heisman electorate. u201cI would love to have votes for the Heisman and be in the top five finalists,u201d Jones said. Teammates and coaches have campaigned for Jones with the Twitter hashtag #MarcusJonesForHeisman. u201cPut him up for the Heisman, man,u201d linebacker Deontay Anderson said. u201cHe makes a play every week that everybody just stops and says, u2018Wow.u201d All that is needed to consider Jonesu2019 candidacy is a glimpse of the second half of the season. All five of Jonesu2019 interceptions have come in the past four games, including two in the second half of last weeku2019s win over Memphis that secured an unbeaten run through American Athletic Conference play. He has four kick returns for touchdowns this season and nine for his career, which is tied for the NCAA record. For the season, Jones leads the nation in kick returns for touchdowns and is tied for the most interceptions.

    He is expected to be the runaway winner for the AACu2019s Special Teams Player of the Year. u201cLaser-beam focus,u201d said Doug Belk, UHu2019s associate head coach and defensive coordinator. u201cHeu2019s locked him like Iu2019ve never seen him. Heu2019s the most dynamic, versatile player in the country.u201d Against Memphis, Jones reached around a receiver and made a one-handed grab for an interception. On the sideline, his teammates were in awe but hardly surprised. He later made his second interception in the end zone to stall the Tigersu2019 last chance. u201cHe makes plays that youu2019re just like, u2018Wow,u2019u201d quarterback Clayton Tune said. u201cIt was funny when he made that one-handed interception, the offense was in the huddle waiting to go out on the field, and I looked at (tight end) Christian Trahan and said, u2018That was like a Madden animation. It looked like it was straight out of a video game.u2019u201d Jones is among five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is presented to college footballu2019s most versatile player, and Holgorsen said heu2019s a shoo-in to win. He should know the criteria: Tavon Austin won the award in 2013 when Holgorsen was head coach at West Virginia.

    Holgorsen said Jones has to be in the discussion for u201cbest returner everu201d and would u201cprobably be our best receiveru201d if played the position full-time. u201cDefensively, heu2019s the best cover guy that Iu2019ve been around,u201d Holgorsen added. u201cIu2019ve had corners get drafted high. Heu2019s just special how he can feel the receivers and make plays with his hands on the ball.u201d Holgorsen said an important factor that should weigh in Jonesu2019 favor is the Cougarsu2019 improvement this season, going from 3-5 to 10-1 entering Saturdayu2019s final regular-season game at Connecticut. The Cougars will play Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game on Dec. 4. u201cYouu2019ve got to have a good team to be (up for Heisman consideration),u201d Holgorsen said. u201cWeu2019re a good team. Heu2019s a big part of it.u201d Belk said Jones would u201cdominateu201d in any conference and in any role. u201cWhen you look at him, he has really no chinks in his armor,u201d Belk said. u201cThe only thing you can say is he is a little bit short on height (5-8), but he plays big. Heu2019s dynamic with the ball in his hands. Heu2019s physical. He can play man-to-mam. He can play in zone coverage.

    We can blitz him. Thereu2019s no way you canu2019t use the guy, whether its offense, defense or special teams. Weu2019ve asked a lot of him. Heu2019s very selfless how he approaches the game.u201d Heisman consideration or not, Jones said heu2019s ready to help the Cougars in any role, whether at receiver, cornerback or return man. u201cItu2019s one of those situations however I can impact the game, help my teammates and help the team win,u201d Jones said. joseph.duarte@chron.com twitter.com/joseph_duarte

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