Former standout USC kick returner impresses at NFL Combine with blazing speed

Aug 31, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Velus Jones Jr., USC Football
Aug 31, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Velus Jones Jr., USC Football / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former standout USC football kick returner Velus Jones Jr. has been impressing at the NFL Scouting Combine due to speed that SC fans remember very well. Jones had burners back when he played at SC from 2016 to 2019. Averaging no less than 23 yards per kick return with the Trojans, he put that speed on display week-in and week-out.

Jones put that speed on display yet again at the Combine, running a 4.31 40-yard dash. That's absurd, and it was second among all receivers in the entire Combine. And that's even in a Combine/Draft that features faster receivers than we usually see. Speaking of his chances as a receiver, it was nice to see him get the chance to catch passes that he was looking for when he transferred to Tennessee after the 2019 season.

With Tennessee, Jones had 62 catches for 807 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. It was his best year offensively by a landslide--not only as a Volunteer but as a college player in general. There was too much competition ahead of him at SC to get targets, but he put his head down, worked hard in practice, kept excelling in the return game (24 yards per kick return in three years at SC), and then transferred somewhere that gave him more of an opportunity for playing time and we watched him flourish.

It's absurd to think of USC football's wide receiver rooms when Velus Jones Jr. was here.

In 2016, Velus Jones Jr. had to compete with the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Deontay Burnett, and Darreus Rogers for targets on the USC football receiver depth chart. That's unfair. Another unfair receiver room was the one Jones was in the next year as well, as Smith-Schuster may have left, but Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. entered the fold.

Next year would be the year for Jones, correct? Well, not exactly. Amon-Ra St. Brown showed up, and Devon Williams also was a threat. The next year? Drake London showed up--making the receiver room somehow even more stacked. Kyle Ford arriving also didn't help. Even though Bru McCoy was injured (and eventually found to be ineligible), the receiver room was just too crowded for Jones to get the amount of looks he deserved.

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Making the move to Tennessee was amazing for him. He proved just how impressive he can be as a receiver, and with his skills out wide AND his dominance in the return game (he even started returning punts last year and not just kicks), he's giving himself a nice shot to move up the draft boards. SC may not have had the chance to finish his development, but his continued rise at Tennessee showed that the Trojans truly did pick up a special player in Jones. Another member of the Trojan family is making huge moves during draft season.