Commentary

Then & Now: Jones finding way at OU

Updated: November 18, 2009, 11:29 AM ET
By Brian Stumpf | ESPN RISE

Each week, ESPNRISE.com's Then & Now features three top performers from the past weekend's college and NFL games and takes a look back at their high school careers.

Oklahoma Sooners
QB Landry Jones

Then: Jones emerged in the Class of 2008 as one of the biggest recruits ever from New Mexico, earning scholarship offers from the likes of UCLA, Virginia, Stanford, Iowa and many others before signing with Oklahoma. The gunslinger passed for a combined 7,282 yards and 89 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons at Artesia High School, twice earning all-state. He was an Elite 11 QB in the Class of 2008 and also selected as the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year.

Now: Jones has been thrust into the limelight as a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma, stepping in for injured Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. After enduring a few bumps early on, Jones is settling in as one of the Big 12's top young quarterbacks, as evidenced by his 392-yard, five-touchdown outing in a 65-10 destruction of Texas A&M. Jones has passed for 2,294 yards and 22 touchdowns, the latter mark leading the Big 12.

Minnesota Vikings WR Sidney Rice

Then: Rice was one of the nation's top football and basketball prospects in the Class of 2004, starring in both sports at Gaffney (Gaffney, S.C.). He earned state player of the year honors in basketball as a junior, and he compiled 138 receptions for 2,500 yards and 25 TDs in his football career at Gaffney. He starred at the 2002 Nike Camp at North Carolina as a wideout and went on to a tremendous two-year career at South Carolina before declaring early for the NFL draft.

Now: A second-round pick by the Vikings in the 2007 draft, Rice is blossoming in his third year with Minnesota. The 6-4, 202-pounder had a career-day against the Lions, catching seven passes for 201 yards in the Vikings' 27-10 win. Rice ranks fourth in the NFL with 786 receiving yards and has quickly become Brett Favre's favorite target in purple, leading the team with 44 receptions.

[+] EnlargeDion Lewis
Tom HauckOverlooked as a prospect, Dion Lewis has rushed for over 1,200 yards as a freshman at Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Panthers RB Dion Lewis

Then: Lewis was an ultra-productive running back out of Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.), averaging over 14 yards a carry while rushing for 1,243 yards and scoring 26 TDs as a senior in 2008, but he was overlooked because of his height (5-foot-7). If college coaches paid more attention to his production and performances at the Penn State Nike Camp and Baltimore Nike Combine that spring, where he clocked a blazing 4.43 40-yard dash on his way to a robust 107.97 SPARQ Rating, he would have undoubtedly drawn more than the one scholarship offer he received.

Now: Lewis is the toast of the Big East as a true freshman at Pittsburgh after enrolling early for spring football and claiming the starting job at tailback. He rumbled for 152 yards and a touchdown as the No. 9 Panthers handed Notre Dame a 27-22 defeat. Lewis has topped 100 yards in five straight games and seven of Pitt's 10 games this fall, and he leads the Big East and ranks sixth nationally with 1,291 yards on the ground.

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