Ever since he graduated a semester early and enrolled at Notre Dame in January, Gainesville alum Tai-ler (TJ) Jones has seemed to be on the fast-track to gridiron success.
Even so, Monday's news that he'll be starting at wide receiver for the Irish in Saturday's opener against Purdue comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who last saw him on the field with the Red Elephants just a few months ago. Even after watching him account for nearly 1,400 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns last fall, such immediate success at the next level wasn't necessarily expected. Fans in Hall County have seen plenty of bright-burning high school talents flame out without leaving much of a mark on the college football landscape.
But when the depth chart was announced, fans and media with an eye focused on Notre Dame weren't shocked to see Jones' name atop one of the WR slots. He made an immediate splash last spring, climbing the depth chart in practice and snagging four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in the Blue-Gold scrimmage. He's continued his ascent since then, impressing coaches and Irish fans along the way.
Tai-ler, by the way, is the son of Andre Jones, who was a linebacker on the 1988 National Championship team at Notre Dame. He edged senior Duval Kamara, who started five games last year, for the starting nod.
The Irish-Boilermakers 2010 season opener is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised by NBC.
For further proof of just how good high school football in Hall County was last season, check South Carolina's season opener at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. True freshman and Flowery Branch grad Connor Shaw is listed as a possible starter at quarterback for the Gamecocks and is expected to see extensive action.