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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Football

Marcus Jones Heisman push growing within UH program


Marcus Jones picked off Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan twice on Friday night, marking his fourth straight game with an interception. | Steven Paultanis/The Cougar

Marcus Jones picked off Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan twice on Friday night, marking his fourth straight game with an interception. | Steven Paultanis/The Cougar

Clayton Tune stood on the sideline huddled with the offense when he looked at tight end Christian Trahan and opened his mouth.

Marcus Jones had just come down with a leaping, one-handed interception of Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan and Tune was still in awe of the play he had just witnessed.

“I looked at Christian Trahan and I go ‘That was like a Madden animation. It just looked like it was straight out of the video game,’” Tune said to reporters after the game.

Whether he is 100-yard kick return, picking off the opposing quarterback or catching touchdowns as a receiver, every time Jones steps on the field he seems to make his teammates’ jaws drop.

While those within the UH program have a first-hand appreciation for what Jones does on a weekly basis, his teammates believe the 5-foot-8-inch Enterprise, Alabama native deserves national recognition.

“Put (Jones) up for Heisman man,” said senior linebacker Deontay Anderson. “He makes a play every week that everybody just stops and says ‘Wow.’”

A resume unlike any other

It’s hard to argue against Anderson’s case for Jones to be in the Heisman Trophy race. Jones is doing what no one else in the country is doing.

Although Jones is listed as a cornerback, it makes more sense to classify him as a utility man because he plays so many different positions at an extremely high level.

Jones has two kickoff return touchdowns, two punt return touchdowns, 109 receiving yards and a touchdown along with five interceptions, all of which have come since Oct. 30.

There is no other player in college football who can boast anything close to the resume Jones has in every single facet of the game.

Jones’ teammates have started calling him Mr. Versatile. 

His head coach, Dana Holgorsen, has never coached a player quite like Jones.

“He’s the most versatile player in college football,” Holgorsen said. “You can’t deny that.”

Just look at all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, and Jones checks all the boxes.

Offensive weapon? Check.

In his limited time playing receiver this season, Jones has eclipsed the 50-yard mark twice as well as found paydirt in the Cougars win over Navy earlier in the year.

In fact, if Jones was only playing receiver Holgorsen thinks he’d be the Cougars’ number one guy.

“He’d probably be our best receiver,” Holgorsen said. “He’s shown he can do that.”

Shutdown cornerback and ballhawk? Check.

In all of Holgorsen’s years coaching football, he has never seen a cornerback as talented as Jones, who has five interceptions in the Cougars’ last four games.

“Defensively, he’s the best cover guy that I’ve been around (and) I’ve had corners get drafted high,” Holgorsen said. “He’s just special how he can feel the receivers and make plays with his hands on the ball.”

Return specialist? Check

Anytime Jones gets a chance to return a kickoff or punt, the opposing team has made a mistake.

Jones is that incredible in the return game that giving UH a good field position may be smarter than allowing him any opportunity to touch the ball on special teams.

Just ask SMU’s Sonny Dykes if he wishes the Mustangs didn’t give Jones a chance to return a kickoff with only seconds remaining in regulation.

“He’s the best returner in the country,” Holgorsen said after Jones took a kick 100 yards to the house in the last seconds of UH’s upset victory over SMU on Oct. 30. “I think he’s getting to a point where he’s the best returner ever. There (have) been some good ones but the things that he does are unbelievable. And for him to do it in both punt and kick, it’s unbelievable.”

Best player in football?

While players like Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III certainly have strong cases to hoist the Heisman Trophy in December, only Jones can claim he has impacted the game in every way possible.

Whether it’s at receiver, cornerback or in the return game, Jones executes his role to perfection every week.

“He deserves the Heisman Trophy because he makes plays and shows up consistently,” said junior defensive lineman Derek Parish. “He deserves to be on the poll.”

While Vegas does not currently give Jones strong odds of winning the Heisman or even being a finalist, UH’s No. 8 has certainly made a strong case with the season that he has put together that he should not be easily overlooked as someone who could be college football’s best player.

Holgorsen certainly believes Jones is the best player in the country. He doesn’t see how it is possible to talk about the Heisman without including someone who has been a star on offense, defense and special teams in one season.

“How is (Jones) not one of the best players in college football?” Holgorsen said. “Is the Heisman trophy not (given) to the best player in college football?”

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