Jones brings explosiveness to IU’s 2021 class

From his spot on the sideline, Valparaiso coach Bill Marshall could see two things.

First, he saw the ball poked out of the hands of LaPorte’s quarterback, bouncing toward midfield. He then saw his 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end, Cooper Jones, sprinting toward it.

Marshall knew what was coming next.

“That’s six,” Marshall reflexively told his defensive coordinator through a headset.

They had seen enough sprints in practice to know Jones isn’t an ordinary 6-6, 250-pound athlete. The newly minted Indiana commit is so explosive, he doesn’t run with his fellow linemen. He’s sprints with linebackers, tight ends, and running backs.

No one could pull even with Jones that night, as big No. 11 pulled away like a gazelle over the plain in a 45-0 win over LaPorte.

“I’m getting shivers just thinking about it right now, but the minute he had his hands on that ball, I knew there was no one that was going to catch him,” Marshall said.

It’s not just inherited speed — his dad played d-line at Notre Dame, and his mom was a softball player at IU. But this is also speed Jones earned. Since freshman year, the three-star d-end has speed-trained with a car tire dragging behind him.

“It’s pretty tough, but it works,” said Jones, who picked up that workout from his father Eric. “I felt myself getting faster. It’s not fun while you’re doing it, but you appreciate it afterward.”

The Hoosiers’ second verbal commitment for the 2021 class had offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and Purdue for a reason. He’s not only big and strong, the product of good genetics. Jones is also working with a nonstop motor, which he brought with him the moment he stepped on Valparaiso’s campus.

Noticing that killer combination, Marshall had Jones repping with the varsity as a freshman. He took his lumps, facing off against the likes of Ben Scott, a 6-5, 310-pounder who went on to be a preferred walk-on at Purdue. But by the time he was a sophomore, Jones was ready to wreak havoc on the line.

He’s produced seven and six sacks, respectively, in two varsity seasons. Not overwhelming totals. But press play on his game highlights, and it’s apparent statistics don’t tell the full story. Big No. 11 is constantly putting blockers on their heels, using his long arms and quick hands to bull or swim his way into the backfield.

He’s crashing down the line, or chasing down running backs 30 yards downfield. He’s forcing quarterbacks to flee the pocket. He’s all over the field, a man amongst boys, even as a junior in grade.

“The reason stats lie is because teams always did things to make sure Cooper Jones didn’t hurt them,” Marshall said. “And in doing so, Dylan Dingman, our other defensive end, he really reaped the benefits of that (13 sacks). He’s a great player in his own right.

“But even with that, with double teams and chips and things like that, (Jones) still has had two tremendous seasons for us.”

Jones and Dingman were a terrible twosome that helped Valparaiso log eight games of seven or fewer points surrendered in 2019, reaching the Class 5A title game.

While opposing teams have made plans to stop Jones, the Vikings adjusted by moving him all over the defensive line. He has caused problems for offensive tackles, guards, and centers alike. He’s collected 105 tackles in two season, along with seven pass deflections and four fumble recoveries.

“Just the versatility he has to move inside, I think is what also helps sell him,” Marshall said, “because I know in talking with some of those recruiting coordinators and coaches, to be able to go ahead and be an outside rusher and then go ahead on run downs and possibly move him inside, definitely helps with his versatility.”

There is room in Jones’ frame to push toward 270 pounds, given it doesn’t reduce his speed. Along with the commitment of Elkhart’s Rodney McGraw, a 6-5, 225-pound specimen, the Hoosiers are acquiring long, athletic prospects on the edge. 

And all three of Tom Allen’s commits for 2021 currently reside in-state, with Bloomington North tight end Aaron Steinfeldt adding his name to the list Friday.

Marshall will vouch for Jones in just about every way. He’s a 4.0 student. On the field, if he picks up a football at the 50 with a full head of steam, he has no doubts in Jones getting to the end zone.

If Jones links up with the right college program, Marshall has no doubts about his ability to run with that opportunity, as well.

“What really sets him apart, other than his size and his physical attributes, is just his motor. He has a continuous motor when he’s on the field, which includes practices, games, and he has just an attitude that’s contagious,” Marshall said. “There’s an excitement about not just life but about football, as well. That’s contagious, and it’s an energy, even when you’re at the end of practice, and you’re doing your conditioning, he doesn’t stop talking. He doesn’t stop motivating. He doesn’t stop leading.”

Jones now feels like he’s found the right person to lead him in the college ranks.

“It’s definitely Coach Allen, everything he believes in, and everything he’s built there,” Jones said. “The culture they have is something I want to be a part of. Just the way he treats everyone, he loves everyone. That’s the motto, LEO (love each other).

“I believe he believes that, that he takes the time to care for each and every one of his players. That’s something I thought highly of, and I thought I could achieve a lot in a system like that.”

(photo courtesy of Kale Wilk, The Times)


  1. This was a good day for IUFB with the commit from two very good in-state commits. Jones has the frame and attitude to be a very special players at IU helping make our defense very good over the next couple of years.

    Getting a TE that is very good at catching the football along with good size is the icing on top of the cake today. It would be nice if the commits keep coming in this summer building the 2021 class into the class to keep the football momentum going.

  2. Proper pieces to expand the success. + the other 2 from the state. I’ve always felt for IUFB to to be a team to be timid of in the B1G it be for a intimidating, dominating D. It damn near has to be DNA propelled in Allen’s FB FB culture. It may be taking place before our eyes. Allen has the GRIT.

  3. HC, IU does need to have a dominate defense in the B1G East and our two defensive players seem to be more of the building blocks needed for the defense. I hope both can come in and be dominate like it appears Lewis could be this season and Mullen & Penix did this past season. It is getting to be that IU is bringing good enough players that can excel early on. I hope IU keeps hitting on players that can excel early on to improve the team and mix in with the veterans to become a force in the B1G East.

    1. V13,
      I agree with you and HC on the point of the building blocks for success. The thing everyone needs to remember is it will take time. The biggest thing I want to see is sustained improvement. It does not have to be quantum leaps, just sustained improvement at a reasonable pace. I know “reasonable pace” is quite subjective but that is what is needed. The improvements I see are very reminiscent of what we saw Hep building and what Mallory and Pont achieved for brief periods of time.

      Hopefully, TA will be the exception to the rule and be able to sustain improving success for a significant number of years.

  4. thinkaboutit, coach Allen’s approach to team and players seems to bring in very good players. The recruits talk about coach’s enthusiasm and being a real person that follows what he says. Coach has some advantages coach Mallory didn’t have because the previous/current administration has stepped up paying for top assistant coaches, building up facilities, etc.

    I too hope coach Allen can keep the winning momentum going but the B1G keeps getting tougher as more good HC join the ranks. Schools with better recruiting bases make it more important for IU to pull in top Indiana players and getting very good players from other areas. Despite some worries about replacing the coaches that left coach Allen seems to have not missed a beat on replacing them maybe even improving the staff.

  5. V13,
    I don’t know about anyone else but I am beginning to become concerned as to whether or not the 2020 FB season will go. If it does not, we all need to remember how dependent P5 college athletics are upon FB. If those revenue streams dry up, a great number of athletic programs will find themselves in dire financial straits. Unfortunately, college athletics is a microcosm of the much larger problem of how long this epidemic continues.

    Quite frankly, if this health crisis continues much longer it may well bring on an economic calamity which will far outweigh the current COVID-19 crisis. This is both in terms of financial impact and additional health crises brought on as a result of the economic calamity.

    1. tai, I share your thoughts in the economy macro outlook. There will certainly be some collegiate AD depts. that will not survive. My reference to macro of course points to the USA economy in particular. The # of small businesses who won’t survive this even with financial help from the gov. will be shocking. Even outfits of 2-300 employees considered small business who simply survive through cash flow and owning glaringly insufficient retained earnings will not have the reserve of cash to reboot operations. These are the breeding grounds of jobs we’ve been enjoying for the past 2 years. If many are unable to restart we’ll see rough waters in lots of locales both blue collar and white collar. Lots of headwind ahead I fear even with significant recovery advancing. Cigar boxes labeled paid in holding invoices exists because of someone else’s cigar box holding holding plaid out receipts.

  6. HC,
    I think from the long business backgrounds we have in common, it is the macro side of this prolonged economic shutdown we both fear. While our concerns may seem out of place for a great many in view of the terrible nature of this epidemic. There are things worse than the disease. The best way I can sum it up for those not inclined to understand the economics of the issue, would be to relate the old adage, “The cure may be worse than the disease.”

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