One-time Mississippi State commit Zaire Jones will decide between three SEC programs sometime in November.
The 3-star safety from Meridian, Miss., confirmed to the AJC’s SECCountry.com on Thursday that Missouri, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are among his finalists.
“All three of those schools show their recognition of how they see me as an athlete,” Jones told SECCountry.com. “Not only that, there is a benefit each university possesses.”
Despite decommitting from Mississippi State on Aug. 14, Jones still holds the program in high regard. Jones maintains a strong relationship with safeties coach Tony Hughes and says the program is a natural fit for fellow Meridian athletes.
So, why the decision to decommit?
“Decommitting wasn’t saying Mississippi State was off the radar,” Jones said. “It was saying more that I need to sit down and look at my decisions from a maturity standpoint more than anything else.”
Two schools that have emerged since then — Vanderbilt and Missouri — appear to have made up significant ground, particularly the Commodores. According to 247Sports.com’s Crystal Ball predictions, Jones is projected to go to Vanderbilt.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety says he could see himself there, too. He tells SECCountry.com that he would love to play for coach Derek Mason and safeties coach Marc Mattioli.
“If that were to be my decision, I couldn’t wait to play for a man like Mattioli,” Jones said. “I can tell his passion about the game.”
Jones says Vanderbilt employs a safety-friendly defense that more often than not uses three on the field at once. He’s comfortable playing nickel, free or strong safety if needed.
“I feel like my game is versatile and I can go wherever the team needs me most,” Jones said.
As for Missouri, Jones is confident in the coaching staff’s player development. He also sees the Tigers’ success on defense this season as a positive.
“You know going into that system, you’ll come out a better athlete,” Jones said. “That staff is known for developing players.”
Jones maintains that it’s a three-team race and that he has no leader. Each school will receive an official visit before he plans to announce in November. Jones confirmed that he will not use his remaining two official visits.
He is rated as the No. 15 safety in the state of Mississippi.
Hailstate ?? AnchorDown⚓️⬇️ MizzouMade〽️? ????? pic.twitter.com/17XAuF7uJ3
— Zaire Jones (@_Zaire5) September 24, 2015