BRADENTON, Fla. — Lots has changed in the last 21 days for Mac Jones.
June 7 was the day Jones, a 4-star quarterback from The Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.), sat in Nick Saban’s office and gave him the news that he was going to flip his commitment from Kentucky to Alabama.
Saban gave Jones a hug after he was told he was getting a second quarterback commit in the Class of 2017. After learning of the news, Alabama offensive line coach Brent Key picked up Jones and swung him around in happiness.
It hasn’t been all fun for Jones since then. He said even though it’s been three weeks since he committed, there is still negativity from fans and fellow players.
“It’s definitely a lot different now. More people have their eyes on me,” Jones told SEC Country at the IMG 7-on-7 national championships. “You can see people on Twitter talk about it. When I switched my commitment, I didn’t look at all of that talk. You can just tell that people were mad. My friends were telling me about some of the stuff people were saying. When I go to some of these events now, you’ll hear some people say, ‘Oh, he sucks.'”
Jones did not “suck” in the 7-on-7 tournament this past weekend. He made few mistakes and reminded SEC Country and fellow recruiting reporters of where former Crimson Tide star AJ McCarron was at this point in the career. Not only does he excel on the field, but he has a swagger to him that makes his teammates gravitate toward him.
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) June 25, 2016
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) June 25, 2016
There were not any noticeable flaws to Jones both athletically and personally at the IMG 7-on-7 national championships, but Jones knows he’s always going to be watched when he goes to an event like this.
“There are a lot more expectations on me now when I go to these camps,” Jones said. “Everyone is always asking me why I’m committed to Alabama. They always look for something wrong with me. It’s always good to have that criticism though because it keeps me motivated.”
He received that criticism almost immediately after he publicly announced his commitment to Alabama because the Crimson Tide have a commitment from the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat QB, Tua Tagovailoa (Honolulu).
Why would Jones choose a school with another highly ranked QB in his class when he could have possibly coasted to the starting job at Kentucky one day? To Jones, the chance to square off against Tagovailoa excites him. It doesn’t scare him off.
“A lot of thought went into it,” Jones said. “I was sitting in my bed every night and thinking of what to do. I had to just make the decision and I went with it.
“But I didn’t really think about Tua (during the decision process) very much. I’ve seen Tua throw and I think Alabama’s offense is really good for me. I just decided that I needed to make the move. With Tua, we have a good relationship. We have different personalities with us being from very different places, but I think we’re going to be great together.”
Tagovailoa was on Alabama’s campus the day Jones announced he was joining the class. The Hawaiian standout could not have been happier for Jones’ decision. After Tagovailoa heard the news of Jones’ decision, he told him congratulations and ran up to him to give him a bear hug.
Some fans questioned what Jones’ commitment meant to Tagovailoa’s status with Alabama. He remains 100 percent committed to Alabama and the pair have grown closer since Jones’ decision.
“(Jones is) a great guy and has a great family,” Tagovailoa told SEC Country the day Jones committed. “They’re awesome people. I support his decision 100 percent. Other people could be very negative about it. This is just all what Alabama does with the recruiting process.”
Before Jones, the nation’s No. 14 pro-style QB, committed to Alabama, the thought from several recruiting experts was he was going to flip his commitment to Texas A&M and not Alabama. He says there were only two schools he would have chosen: Alabama or Kentucky.
That doesn’t include Florida, which would have immediately received a commitment from Jones if it had offered early in the process. Jones grew up a Gators fan but the team didn’t recruit him after getting a commitment from 4-star QB Jake Allen.
He doesn’t live in a “what if” world though. He’s 100 percent committed to Alabama and is not taking any more visits to schools not located in Tuscaloosa.
“I just felt like Alabama was the opportunity I needed to take, and obviously it was a difficult choice, “Jones said. “I feel like I definitely made the right move.”
Ever since he committed, Jones has taken it upon himself to recruit other elite prospects for Alabama. He’s become one of the team’s top recruiters alongside fellow commits VanDarius Cowan and Alex Leatherwood.
“I’m just really trying to get those players to come out to see how special of a place Alabama is beyond the football field,” Jones said. “You want to help those people out that are looking at other schools. I just feel like it’s my job to help present the facts to help with their decision.”
Jones said his best attribute when it comes to recruiting other players is his ability to talk to anyone and find some connection with them. What also separates him from other recruits is his level of competitiveness. Whether he’s competing on the field or for a recruit, don’t expect Jones to go down without a fight.
“That’s what drives me,” Jones said. “In lower school, I would cry when I lost in dodgeball. Stuff like that makes me excited to compete every day. I’m also just really the kind of guy who can talk and connect with anyone. I can talk to this brick right here for 10 minutes if you need me to.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.