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April 20, 2013

Jones now a leading man

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - TJ Jones assumed a leadership role hours before the Blue-Gold Game marked an end to spring practice.

Nervousness never arrived for Jones as he spoke on Friday night at the Monogram Club dinner, a responsibility bestowed on the senior receiver and cornerback Bennett Jackson by head coach Brian Kelly.

“It’s a huge compliment,” Jones said. “Not everyone gets that chance in their four years to do that. And the fact that he felt that comfortable to put me on stage in front of probably 500 (alumni) plus players, it’s a great honor and I’m very appreciative.”

Come Saturday afternoon Jones went about the business of completing spring practice for the final time with three receptions for 38 yards, including a 17-yard grab in the first quarter.

Jones tied DaVaris Daniels for a game high in receptions and steadied a receiving corps short on experience. Daniel Smith made a couple catches, as did C.J. Prosise in his first public showcase since switching from the defensive backfield.

Prosise caught the only touchdown of the game, a 35-yard strike from early enrollee Malik Zaire in the fourth quarter.

Jones hopes to expand on those flashes of ability with the younger receivers during offseason workouts and 7-on-7 drills, especially after freshmen enroll during the summer. Early enrollee Corey Robinson missed the game with an elbow injury while James Onwualu didn’t register a catch.

Will Fuller and Torii Hunter Jr. will join the team in June.

“There’s a big responsibility,” Jones said. “It comes with not only helping the young guys that have early enrolled, the young guys just in general, to getting everyone’s work ethic on the same page. I think with a lot of the young guys, it’s the same problem I had. You don’t know how to work through practice.

“You may not like practice but as you get older you learn how to push through two hours, lock in. I think a lot of that has to do with our age and maturity. I’m gonna help as much as I can to help our offense as a whole mature.”

Not only will Jones look to expand leadership but also production.

Jones will begin the fall as a four-year starter coming off a successful junior season. He tied tight end Tyler Eifert for the team lead with 50 receptions, racking up 649 yards and four touchdowns along the way.

After all that there is still a feeling Jones could become a more dynamic piece to the offense as a senior.

“I feel that this being my last year, I think I’m doing everything right in preparation,” Jones said. “I’ve finally got, in my own opinion, I’m able to run with the weight I gained my freshman year. I’ve gained about 35 pounds since I got here. I’m just now comfortable in my own skin and I think that’s gonna allow me to take my game to another level.”

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