GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The recruitment of 4-star quarterback Emory Jones will come down to the wire this week.
Jones has been committed to Ohio State for 18 months, but this weekend Florida and Florida State joined Alabama in the race for the top-50 overall recruit. He also visited Auburn this fall, but the Tigers are not serious contenders. The mid-year enrollee will sign early and plans to make his final decision Tuesday or Wednesday.
SEC Country spoke to multiple sources close to Jones to gather the latest intel on his recruitment this weekend.
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound dual-threat quarterback from Heard County High School (Franklin, Ga.) flew to Gainesville on Friday for a surprise trip to UF. Jones had interest in the Gators last spring, but the previous staff decided to pursue quarterbacks Justin Fields and Matt Corral.
Corral committed to the Gators on July 22, but backed off that pledge Thursday and flipped to Ole Miss. It didn’t take long for new Gators coach Dan Mullen to target a new quarterback.
In early December, Jones told SEC Country he would consider the Gators if he heard from Mullen. The former Mississippi State coach gave Jones his first SEC offer in the spring of his freshman year. Jones visited MSU twice before committing to the Buckeyes in July 2016.
After Corral de-committed and cancelled his official visit, Florida quickly moved in on Jones. Alabama had already been working to get him in Tuscaloosa this weekend, but he decided to check out the Gators instead. Less than 16 hours after losing Corral, Mullen had Jones on campus.
He arrived in Gainesville after 2 p.m. Friday and went out to eat with the coaches that night. Jones received a full campus tour Saturday and ate lunch in the indoor practice facility. After resting at his hotel, Jones checked out the football stadium and tried on uniforms in the locker room.
Jones and his mother, Trina Jones, left UF around 7:30 p.m. Saturday and took a car service to Tallahassee for his official visit to Florida State. Florida made an effort to keep Jones in town until Sunday, but he had scheduled the FSU trip earlier in the week and did not want to back out of those plans.
Despite the UF visit ending early, there’s confidence in Gainesville about Florida’s chances with the Elite 11 finalist. One source close to Jones told SEC Country that if he didn’t go to FSU this weekend, the Gators might have been in the driver’s seat for his services.
A potential Florida-FSU battle could be brewing for Jones as his recruitment reaches the eleventh hour.
A source close to the Ohio State program told SEC Country the Buckeyes are still recruiting Jones and would like to sign him. However, OSU coach Urban Meyer and his staff became upset with Jones after he officially visited in late October and failed to shut down his recruitment.
Ohio State started recruiting other quarterbacks in November and that led to the pledge of Matthew Baldwin, who committed on Dec. 7 and will enroll early. With Baldwin on board, the Buckeyes seemingly are anticipating the departure of Jones.
Jones has been the top QB target for Alabama coach Nick Saban since the summer. The Crimson Tide stopped recruiting 4-star quarterback Jarren Williams last month to focus their efforts on Jones. He has made five trips to Alabama this year, including an official visit on Oct. 21.
Despite a handful of stops in Tuscaloosa, Jones has been unwilling to pull the trigger this fall. The Tide’s quarterback depth could be the reason, though Jones has said that he doesn’t mind redshirting. As of Sunday night, a program source told SEC Country that Alabama does not expect to flip Jones.
Like Mullen, new Florida State coach Willie Taggart has some history with Jones. The former Oregon coach offered the Under Armour All-American last spring when he was with the Ducks, but could never get him on campus. Taggart had better luck with the Seminoles and now has them in the mix.
Jones will return home Monday and make a final decision this week. He is scheduled to hold a pre-signing ceremony Tuesday at his high school, but it’s unknown whether his decision will be made public that day. Jones will sign his letter of intent Wednesday and enroll early at the school of his choice.