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Wednesday, September 8, 2010
ND freshman Jones shows potential

By Wes Morgan

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Michael Floyd, Notre Dame's engaging junior receiver and resident entertainer, said taking freshman T.J. Jones under his wing was merely veteran instinct. That and Jones laughed at his jokes.

TJ Jones
T.J. Jones had a breakout first game in South Bend.
"I think there was a different kind of people here when I first came here," Floyd said of an austere atmosphere early in his Fighting Irish career. "So, I kind of had to do things a little differently. I'm kind of a low-key guy; I don't really care as long as we have fun. [Jones is] a fun guy, so that's what I like. I'm a funny guy. So I like to have fun, play hard and also have a little humor."

Floyd admired the rookie's performance against Purdue. Jones caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dayne Crist in the third quarter to give Notre Dame a 20-3 cushion and finished with three receptions for 41 yards.

"To be a freshman, you know, [starting in front of] 80,000 people, you know, it's really hard," Floyd said. "I think he stepped up for the team a lot and made big plays when he needed to."

Jones, who enrolled during the spring, is a legacy trying forge his own identity in South Bend. His father, Andre Jones, was a defensive end at ND from 1987-91. His godfather is Raghib "Rocket" Ismail. His future appears limitless.

"It's definitely one of the best feelings that I've had in my life and that I'll remember forever," the 5-foot-11, 187-pounder said of the TD catch. "I kind of didn't know what to do when I scored. I didn't know it was coming to me for sure, but when I saw that the ball was in flight, I definitely tensed up a little bit to make that catch."

What he did realize following the leaping reception was the anxiety he cloaked well leading up to his debut had evaporated.

"It ends because now I got my first touchdown out of the way, I got my first start out of the way and now it's time to go play like the veterans," Jones said.

When Michigan comes to town Saturday, the tandem will face a battered Wolverines secondary -- one thinned by injury and dissatisfaction. Sophomore safety Vladimir Emilien is the second Michigan player from that unit to transfer in a month.

Irish coach Brian Kelly hopes to see Jones progress and Floyd be more involved in Week 2.

"Sure. I think one way is to keep the ball inbounds when we throw it to Floyd," he said of a couple errant Crist passes. "Don't put it up in the band section. I think the band members would appreciate that as well seeing how he did some damage up in the band section. I think the offense is always going to be, you know, how to get the ball to Michael Floyd. But like you said, I think you're also going to look at teams are going to double him. ... If I see they're doubling Mike, we're not going to go over there, we're going to do something else."

Whatever that is, Kelly reiterated that the offense must outpace Michigan's read option spread, led by shifty sophomore QB Denard Robinson. Ball control is important, he said, but the alternative isn't all that bad either.

"My other perspective would be get up on 'em," Kelly said frankly. "Score a lot of points. Option teams don't like to fall behind. If they do, and they get off schedule, they have to do some things they don't want to do. I always look at it from both of those perspectives. One is controlling the football but the other is put a lot of points on the board and it changes the way they manage the game, too."

Injury update

Fifth-year senior Dan Wenger's final season is in jeopardy after Kelly confirmed the reserve center suffered his second concussion in the last three weeks. The story can be found here.

Starting safety Jamoris Slaughter did little more than peddle a stationary bike Wednesday after spraining an ankle against the Boilermakers.

"He had a procedure where he really is a day ahead," Kelly said. "He had a procedure done that requires 72 hours of absolutely no walking and he was jogging in [stretching]. So he's a day ahead. We'll see tomorrow and I think I'll have a better picture of that going into Friday."