2012-07-19 / Sports
Malcolm in the middle
. Former Oaks Christian megastar preps for breakout season with UCLA
The former five-star recruit has been out of the spotlight the last two years, fighting for running back at UCLA.
Not too long ago, Jones was fighting off reporters.
“Being a top recruit was frustrating at times because reporters would always call me trying to find out information about me,” said Jones, the first Gatorade high school football player of the year to join the Bruins.
“It got to the point where they were pretty much following me.”
These days, the incoming junior can walk around Westwood without being harassed.
He doesn’t miss being the center of attention, but Jones wants to prove he can be an elite running back for the Bruins.
With former UCLA back Derrick Coleman moving on to the NFL, Jones is expected to have a bigger role in the backfield. He will still have to compete for playing time with Johnathan Franklin, who led the Bruins with 976 rushing yards in 2011.
“(The past two years) my coaches told me it’s hard playing three running backs at one time with our offense,” said Jones, who had 25 carries for 103 yards and one touchdown last fall. “I had to wait my turn.
“It was frustrating at times, but I was only a sophomore.”
Under former UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel’s “pistol” offense, which is designed for the quarterback to be a running threat in a shotgun formation, Jones didn’t get the opportunity to flourish.
Jones said incoming head coach Jim Mora will give him a chance to play.
The 2010 OCHS graduate already notices a difference with the current coaching staff.
“The tempo at practice is different,” said the 6-foot, 220-pound Jones. “With Neuheisel, tempo wasn’t as fast. Coach Mora really picked up the tempo. He always has us running around somewhere.”
UCLA opens its training camp Aug. 8 at Cal State San Bernardino.
This season, four Lions graduates join Jones on the Bruins’ roster: linebacker Cassius Marsh, wide receiver Jordan Payton and cornerback Ishmael Adams.
Oaks Christian is known for producing top players in California. Former Oaks Christian head coach Bill Redell, said Jones is one of the greats.
“We’ve have had a lot of great running backs and Malcolm is right there with them,” Redell said. “He was the best running back stats wise.
“I’m surprised he’s been getting sparse playing time. He’s a great in-game player and needs to see the field more, but Malcolm won’t complain. He’s a 100-percent team guy.”
Jones said he was shocked when he found out Redell took the Occidental College head coaching job.
“When I was at Oaks, I remember him always saying it’s his last year (coaching football),” said Jones, who rushed for 2,477 yards with 40 touchdowns his senior year at Oaks Christian.
“We all knew he was planning to retire, but I was pretty surprised he took the new job.”
Jones seldom lost in high school, a major reason why he chose to attend UCLA. He wanted to be known as one of the players that potentially returned the Bruins to glory.
With two more years of eligibility left, Jones is up for the challenge.