tampabay.com

'Canes confident in back's readiness

Charlie Jones earned kudos for his stand-in work last season. Now Miami turns to him vs. FSU.

By BOB HARIG
Published September 1, 2006


MIAMI - Waiting became the toughest part. Charlie Jones, like many hot-shot high school stars, found the backfield at the University of Miami crowded, the competition fierce.

Despite his credentials, getting on the field involved more than just showing up, as had always been the case at lower levels.

"It was hard. I wondered if I would ever get to play," Jones said. "Or how many carries I would get. Or wondering why I wasn't getting more."

Jones knows now, however, just how important it is to be ready.

If not for an injury to Tyrone Moss late last season, Jones might be on the sideline instead of in the starting lineup when the Hurricanes take on Florida State on Monday night at the Orange Bowl.

Jones, a junior tailback from Homestead, found himself in a starting role last fall when Moss went down with a left knee injury during the second quarter of a victory at Virginia Tech.

With nary a second to ponder the circumstances, Jones was thrust into action in November against the Hokies, rushing 24 times for 97 yards, both career highs.

"That game went by real fast," he said. "After the game, I got so many phone calls and e-mails and I didn't even realize what I had done. I went back and watched film to see what I had done. It was fun."

Although Moss, a senior, is suspended (missed study hall) for the opener against Florida State, there was no guarantee he would be healthy enough to play against the Seminoles because of knee surgery.

That is why the experience the 5-foot-10, 218-pound Jones gained is invaluable.

"Not much has been said about what he did for us last year," coach Larry Coker said. "Charlie stepped in and did a great job. It makes us feel a lot better. He played well in some big games. I don't like the situation with Tyrone, but at the same time, we're not out of business."

Jones started the final four games last season. He finished with 123 carries for 507 yards and had five touchdowns after playing as a reserve in the first seven games.

"I feel if I hadn't gotten that experience, I wouldn't know what I'm about to face," said Jones, who starred at South Dade High School, where he rushed for 348 yards in a single game as a junior.

"I really needed that a lot. I feel that has prepared me for what I'm going to do now. Getting that opportunity to play was very important. It seems like I'm so far ahead."

What Jones did not need was a preseason hamstring injury that has sometimes kept him off the practice field. With Moss working his way back and injuries to Jones and sophomore Derron Thomas, freshman Javarris James has gotten a strong look, often working with the first team.

Let's put it this way," Coker said. "He has my attention."

James, 6 feet, 202 pounds, is the cousin of former Hurricanes star Edgerrin James, now with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. Javarris, like his cousin, was a star running back at Immokalee High, where he rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 72 touchdowns. He ran for 300 yards in a playoff game last year.

Chances are, however, that James will have to wait, just like Jones, who at least begins the season as the main man.

Not that the job is his to keep. The Hurricanes were disappointed with their running game a year ago, when it ranked 70th in Division-I-A at 137.5 yards per game.

"I don't get nervous," Jones said. "I've been doing this my whole life. You can't go out there and die playing football. There's nothing to be nervous about."