At some point we’ll run out of Toledo Rockets to recognize in the 2016 Top 25 MAC Player Countdown. Today is not that day. Toledo has questions this season, to be sure. First and foremost is their adjustment to a new head coach. Yes, Jason Candle was an internal hire and promoted from the offensive coordinator role, but it still is an adjustment. There’s questions of the defense and whether last year’s performance was an anomaly or the new norm in the Glass Bowl. And then there’s the schedule.
Most Mid-American Conference schedules are fairly balanced, but Toledo’s 2016 slate is anything but. Most experts agree that the MAC West is a three-horse race between Toledo, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they play both of their front running counterparts on the road. Their out of conference schedule is a killer slate as well, with both Arkansas State and BYU on the road, bringing a 2-2 start to the year into the land of possibility.
With all those uncertainties, though, there is one rock solid foundation: the offense. Of which, Cory Jones, who checks in at #15 in our 2016 Top Player Countdown is someone you, and opposing defenses would do well to keep eyes on at all times. Lose sight of him? Check the end zone. If ‘16 carries on like ‘15, that’s where he’s likely to spend a considerable amount of time.
MAC Player Countdown #15: Cory Jones, WR, Toledo
This senior from Pittsburgh comes into 2016 with two straight years of excellence under his belt. His sophomore campaign in 2014 saw him lead the Rockets in receptions and receiving yards, be an impact player on special teams, and show that it is possible to be both a sure-handed possession receiver and also a considerable deep threat, all of which landed him on the All-MAC 2nd Team.
His junior season was more of the same, leading the team in receptions by nearly 20 catches, and tied for the team lead in receiving TDs. Jones was one of three outstanding Toledo wide outs with Cody Thompson and Alonzo Russell. With Russell’s departure, the WR1 designation will fall to Jones, along with the defensive attention it brings. Thankfully, as mentioned, defenses that focus solely on Jones will find themselves beaten by one of many weapons in Toledo’s arsenal, a fact which should free him up to single coverage most times.
Why a Top 25 MACthlete?
Jones is not your prototypical wide receiver, checking in at only 5’9” and 165 pounds, but the proof is in the pudding for his results on the field. The MAC is the home of the not perfect size or shape being the difference maker on the field, and Jones is next in line to prove that theory exactly right.
Of even more importance is his prowess on special teams, always a threat to take a punt return to the house, but more importantly, flipping the field for the potent Toledo offense to have even less ground to cover before they land in the end zone. That’s not so great if you’re a fan of any team other than Toledo.
It’s easy to point to Jones as the benefactor of a potent offensive attack where everyone has to be accounted for defensively. Maybe that’s the case, but what isn’t up for debate is the grabbing of the opportunity when it presented itself to him. The type of “Wow!” factor and pass catching that Cory Jones provides isn’t just because he has weapons around him.
Jones set career highs (12 catches, 118 yards) against Iowa State in 2014, the same Iowa State that his prior head coach, Matt Campbell, would leave for at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
Video Proof of Awesomeness:
Toledo and Jones opens their 2016 campaign September 2nd at Arkansas State, 9pm, on ESPNU.