By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Tom Westerberg has been coaching in the state of Texas at Allen High School for over a decade. His program has produced a number of D-1 prospects, including running back Jonathan Williams (Arkansas) and five-star quarterback Kyler Murray, who ended up at Texas A&M.
So when Westerberg gives his seal of approval on defensive back Jaylon Jones, the Rebels’ latest verbal pledge, and how good his leadership skills are, it speaks volumes.
“As a sophomore, he was one our leading tacklers on our state championship run,” Westerberg said. “He just went back and played safety for us for 16 games and did a great job as a sophomore. He was pretty quiet and we had a really good defense that year on a pretty good team. He just went about his job and did what he was supposed to do.”
As a junior, Jones was voted in as a captain, a very rare honor, according to Westerberg.
“That was probably the first time since I’ve been here that we had a junior as a captain,” he said. “As far as leadership is concerned, that’s pretty good. He is more of a leader by showing people instead of being as vocal as some leaders are.”
Jones picked Ole Miss over a number of schools, including offers from in-state programs such as A&M, Baylor and TCU. Allen’s Eagles have played a number of games in the highest class in the state of Texas. Last year they finished 16-0 and finished as the top-ranked school in the talent-rich state.
Westerberg said one of the things that stood out to college recruiters about Jones (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is his ability to play both safety, and cornerback. During Tuesday’s testing in the 40-yard dash, Jones ran it in 4.49 seconds.
“He has played safety for us, but every once in a while, depending on who we are playing, he would jump out there and match up with a team’s best receiver,” Westerberg said. “He can play either one, which is the big upside. I’m not sure where Ole Miss plans on playing him, but I know he can fit in to any of the systems (4-2-5) like that.”
Jones has had “quite a few” interceptions over the past two years playing varsity, Westerberg said.
“He’s also returned some kicks for touchdowns for us, too,” he added. “He had a huge one in the playoffs last year for a touchdown.”
Jones has good overall ball skills, and Westerberg was expecting to play him more on offense this coming fall.
Recruiting players in the state of Texas still goes through the high school coaches, and Westerberg was very familiar with Ole Miss assistants Jason Jones and Grant Heard, the two primary recruiters who kept up with Jones. He was also familiar with Tom Allen when he was on Hugh Freeze’s staff, and Westerberg said he had a pretty good relationship with all the coaches, adding his player felt like their efforts was the defining reason he chose to live in Oxford in the future.
“We talk to the recruiters all the time. They either come through my office or one of our assistant coaches. We know where they stand and where he stands and of course the kids keep up with where they’re ranked and all of that stuff,” Westerberg said. “I think (Ole Miss) has got a really good one that is going to come in and help. He felt like going to play in the SEC West was a good place for him and that it had some of the best teams in the nation.
“He also really fell in love (with Ole Miss) when he was there two weeks ago. That was the last one that he saw to compare everything else. He wanted to commit and get it out of the way. He also felt at ease and comfortable with the coaches and that he really liked Coach Freeze and all those guys.”