Aaron and his twin brother, Alvin, were El Paso kids that weren't highly rated, so staying around home made sense. It's worked out well for UTEP, as Alvin has led the team in tackles the past two years while Aaron amassed over 4,000 rushing yards during his career. Aaron led the Miners with 811 yards as a freshman, scoring four times, even though he missed three games due to a broken rib. Healthy throughout 2014, he earned second-team All-Conference USA honors with 1,321 yards (5.5 per) and 11 scores (also 30-293, three TDs receiving). The good luck didn't stay in his junior year, however, as he suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle in practice. Jones exploded in 2016 after that redshirt year, ranking fourth in the FBS with 1,773 rushing yards and scoring 17 times (28-233, three TDs receiving). He was a first-team All-Conference USA pick in his final year.
PLAYER OVERVIEWJones was recruited as both a running back and wide receiver out of high school and received a few FBS-level offers, but only hometown UTEP offered him and his twin brother, Alvin, making his decision easy. He saw immediate action as a true freshman and started six games, leading the team with 811 yards rushing and four scores. Jones started 12 games as a sophomore and posted a team-best 1,321 yards and 11 scores, also led the Miners with three touchdown grabs to earn Second Team All-CUSA honors. He started the first two games in 2015 before a season-ending injury forced him to redshirt. Jones returned in 2016 and started all 12 games, setting a school-record with 1,773 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns to earn First Team All-CUSA honors. He elected to skip his final season and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
A three-year starter at UTEP, Jones thrived in the Miners' pro-style rush attack, making his living between the hashes and contributing as a receiver. His 147.8 rushing yards per game average in 2016 was third-best in the FBS and his 7.7 yards per carry average led all FBS backs with at least 150 carries. Jones can scoot with the play speed and coordinated lower body to string together moves and find open spaces. He doesn't have ideal run power or tempo between the tackles, leading to missed opportunities, but his quick-hitting vision and feast/famine run style are what made him so productive in college. Overall, Jones has clear flaws to his game, which might limit his NFL opportunities, but he has the athletic traits to eat away at defenses if given the chance.
STRENGTHS WEAKNESSESSTRENGTHS: Decisive runner who attacks the line of scrimmage. Presses the hole with timing and balance. Great feel for the cutback lane, showing the vision and quick feet to read his keys and escape trouble. Controlled movements with his hips and feet working in unison. Squeezes through openings with low pad level and burst. Gliding finishing speed at the second level to run away from pursuit angles - 24 carries of 20+ yards in 2016. Soft hands and natural receiving skills. Worked his tail off to return from his 2015 injury and stayed healthy in his final season. Two-year team captain. Extremely productive career and holds the UTEP record for career rushing yards (4,114) - also set school records with 17 100-yard and five 200-yard rushing performances.
WEAKNESSES: Slender for the position and lacks ideal body armor. Doesn't run with optimal power, limiting his yards after contact. Too easily grounded by single defenders. Often attacks before reading, lacking patience as an inside runner. Overcommits and misses developing holes> Needs to better set up his blocks and avoid running up the backs of his teammates. Limited in short-yardage. Liability in pass protection due to poor base strength and technique. Fumbled nine times over his career. Missed most of the 2015 season after surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left ankle (Sept. 2015) - also missed playing time as an underclassman due to shoulder and rib injuries. Off-field decision making will be scrutinized following his arrest for DWI (Feb. 2016).
--Dane Brugler (4/25/17)