CULVER – As an incoming freshman, Tony Jones Jr. probably did not imagine being singled out for praise after the first practice of his intial training camp for Notre Dame.
Yet Saturday afternoon at Culver Military Academy, that is exactly what happened. Irish coach Brian Kelly went out of his way to put a stamp of approval on Jones, a running back out of IMG Academy in Florida.
"I was impressed with Tony Jones today," Kelly said. "He caught the ball well out of the backfield. He was confident in what he was doing back there. If there was one freshman that jumped in there offensively and looked confident in what he was doing, it was certainly Tony."
Though a breeze off Lake Maxinkuckee occasionally cooled temperatures, it was mostly an unrelentingly warm midday sun, and third-string running back Dexter Williams had issues with the heat, which opened the door for Jones to get repetitions.
Jones rushed for 514 yards and 11 touchdowns on 78 carries as a senior at IMG Academy.
"Dexter had stomach problems," Kelly said. "We had to IV him. He was sick. I guess he wasn't forthright with us with his illness. So he got sick, and we had to take him off the field, and Tony did a really good job. Matter of fact, (associate head coach) Mike Denbrock called him Dexter twice. I think that's a compliment, obviously, for a true freshman to impress us at that level."
Tarean Folston, Notre Dame's most experienced running back and one likely to team with Josh Adams for the majority of carries this fall, echoed Kelly's thoughts on Jones, who was selected for the U.S. Army All-American Game.
"Tony looked great," Folston said. "Tony looked real good. For his first day, I think he did a great job."