As the first commitment last spring, C.J. Jones has seen UCF's 2014 recruiting class take shape around him. The Port Orange (Fla.) Atlantic running back is excited about who will be joining him in Orlando next year.
Jones was among five commits who attended the home finale vs. USF as he was joined by Joey Connors, Chris Davis, Tyler Harris and Wyatt Miller.
"I loved that game," Jones said. "I was on the sidelines talking to a whole bunch of the commits. I felt the family feeling. We were all down there just joking around, having a good time. It felt like family. It was just fun seeing all the players there. I said what's up to some of the walk-ons too, I know Michael Colubiale. It's just real cool. It was great seeing the coaches again."
Jones said he's been communicating the most with one of his future blockers, Wyatt Miller, who is from south Georgia.
"We talk periodically," Jones said. "We message each other on Twitter. I introduced myself to him so (the USF game) was the first time we talked to each other face to face."
He was there for most of the home games, but says nothing matched the atmosphere for the UCF-USF game.
"It was so crazy," Jones said. "The student section was hyped like always. Everybody was jumping up and down. Just an exciting game. I videotaped the team running out and watching the video again I could see the stands were packed. There were a lot of people there."
The Knights beat USF, 23-20. It was UCF's first win in the series as the Bulls took the first four meetings from 2005-08. The rivalry took a four-year hiatus, but now it's here to stay as both teams compete in the American Athletic Conference.
Jones sees the rivalry becoming even more intense in the future.
"Even back home I have a friend that goes to USF," he said. "He came to the game and he was like, 'I'll bet you $20 beats UCF.' I was like, 'Man, you're crazy.' He owes me $20. Even over here, you can see the rivalry is starting up. I love it. It's only going to get bigger and better."
Before the game, Jones spoke with his recruiter, Sean Beckton, and future position coach Danny Barrett. Beckton made an in-home visit with him on Tuesday night as well.
"I told Coach Barrett when I get there I'm coming to grind," Jones said. "I said, 'Coach, I'm coming to play!' He was like, 'I know, I know.' When I get there I'm going to try hard. I know there's going to be competition, but I'm trying to get out there and play."
If Jones earns it, he'll be on the field. UCF has seen a big contribution this year from true freshman running back Will Stanback. Against Rutgers on Nov. 21, Stanback made a play the entire nation would be talking as he leveled a defensive back who attempted to tackle him. Being a school night, Jones was watching from home.
"That was crazy," Jones said. "Me and my little brother were watching the game and we both jumped like, 'Whoo!' We kept on rewinding it like 10 times. My little sister came over to see it and she was like, 'Dang!' It was real exciting."
From the first big win at Penn State, the road win at Louisville and then rolling through the conference schedule, Jones has loved seeing what UCF has done on the field this year. Next up for the Knights is a trip to the BCS as they'll face Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
"It's real exciting," Jones said. "Before the season, when people would ask about me going to UCF, I would tell them, 'Sit back and just watch.' Seeing all this good stuff happen has been great. We're going out there showing people what we're all about. We're going to put up a fight and win. That gets you real excited, gives you butterflies almost because you want to go in next year and make a difference as well."
The first game of the 2014 season will be in Dublin, Ireland against Penn State. Jones hopes to be part of the travel squad making the trip.
"My dad was saying he might have to get a passport to get out there," Jones said. "That's just real exciting, going somewhere you've never been before and playing the sport that you love. I definitely want to do that. That gives me a lot of motivation to earn a position and put everything I've got on the field."
Jones was averaging about 170 yards per game through the first seven games until he was slowed in late October by a high-ankle sprain. He believes his final yards tally was north of 1,200 yards, but wasn't sure of the exact number. He says his production dropped as he wasn't playing at 100 percent following his return.
Atlantic finished with a 4-7 record, though four of those losses were by two points or less.
"Everything was still good," Jones said. "I didn't get to hit the mark I wanted for yardage because of the high-ankle sprain, but it was good. I missed one game and then came back. It wasn't fully healed then, but right now it feels wonderful. I feel like I improved a lot from last year. I'm just focused on getting ready for college now."
And by college, he means UCF exclusively. He never entertained any others after making his commitment.
"Before, there were schools talking to me, but then they stopped because they knew I was a hard commit," Jones said. "I'm 100 percent committed. My mind isn't going to change. My dad was asking me, 'Before I buy all this UCF stuff, I want to make sure you're not going to change your mind?' I was like, 'No way, I'm not changing my mind.' I'm totally committed to UCF."
Jones' official visit has been scheduled for January.
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