2012 CU football schedule
Sunday, Sept. 2 - Colorado State, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 - Sacramento State at Folsom Field
Saturday, Sept. 15 - At Fresno State
Saturday, Sept. 22 - At Washington State
Saturday, Sept. 29 - UCLA at Folsom Field
Thursday, Oct. 11 - Arizona State at Folsom Field
Saturday, Oct. 20 - At Southern California
Saturday, Oct. 27 - At Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 3 - Stanford at Folsom Field
Saturday, Nov. 10 - At Arizona
Saturday, Nov. 17 - Washington at Folsom Field
Friday, Nov. 23 - Utah at Folsom Field
Tony Jones is listed at 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds.
Has his game grown enough to carry Colorado's offense?
Throughout spring practices, teammates and coaches have raved about Jones' development and performance.
Jones has seized the starting running back position entering fall camp and likely will have his number called frequently this fall considering:
Buffs fans will get a chance to see how far Jones has come during the spring game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Folsom Field.
"I'm a lot more confident," Jones, a redshirt sophomore, said of his role on the team after a year in Bieniemy's system. "I know the playbook. But I still go home and study my playbook, on top of studying my school work."
For the past two seasons, Jones was an understudy to Rodney "Speedy" Stewart, who finished his career second on CU's all-time rushing list behind Bieniemy.
"I learned a lot from Speedy working with him and coach Bieniemy. Speedy is a heck of a guy and he took me under his wing and definitely taught me a lot," Jones said. "I'm grateful for that. He was one of the best running backs that played here, other than coach Bieniemy. It was a pleasure working with Speedy and getting to know a lot of things that he knew and that I didn't know."
In addition to rushing for 854 net yards on 189 attempts in 2011, Stewart was CU's leading receiver last season with 45 catches.
Toney Clemons, who is out of eligibility, finished with 43 receptions for 680 yards. Richardson added 39 catches for 555 yards.
That makes Jones, who had 27 receptions for 168 yards, the team's most productive returning target in the passing game.
"He has done an outstanding job of running the ball and catching the ball," Bieniemy said. "The thing that we need to continue to work with is pass protection, just understanding and knowing all the calls and making sure who we block and when to block them."
Jones had 78 carries for 297 net yards and two touchdowns last season. For what it's worth, he scored two touchdowns in CU's most recent scrimmage.
Right now it sounds like Josh Ford, D.D. Goodson and Justin Gorman are chasing Jones for first-team reps.
Donta Abron, Terrence Crowder and Davien Payne arrive this summer as part of the 2012 recruiting class, while fellow 2012 recruit Clay Norgard is already on campus and participating in spring ball.
"I've told these kids, 'Your interview sessions is now,'" Bieniemy said. "When these younger kids come in they're going to get every opportunity to show what they can do. So let's make sure we're putting the right stuff on tape."
Jones, a high school All-American from the legendary Don Bosco Prep program in New Jersey, showed flashes of potential last season while subbing for the injured Stewart at times. In the second half of a lopsided loss at Washington he was the bright spot with 14 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown.
The coaching staff has reported witnessing explosive plays from Jones throughout the closed-door spring sessions.
"He has had a very productive spring. He has accepted the challenge and he's been out there working hard every day," Bieniemy said. "From where he started last year and even throughout the season, to see where he is now, he has made tremendous strides.
"I just want him to keep working on it because the sky could be the limit for him."
Size did not matter for Stewart, who played big for the Buffs at 5-6, 175 pounds.
But head coach Jon Embree told Bieniemy, who was also a small yet powerful running back, to start recruiting players that he literally had to look up to.
"I'm not taking anything away from Rodney and Tony; I love those guys," Embree said during the 2011 season. "They've been good players for us, and Tony will be. But it's comforting to have a Chris Brown. They wear the other team down. When you're trying to salt a game away, when that big battering ram keeps coming, it helps."
Until the next Brown, one of the stars of the Big 12 championship team in 2001, walks through the door at the Dal Ward Center, it appears that Jones will be carrying much of the load for CU's offense.
"It starts with my offensive line. They've done a hell of a job run blocking. I'm grateful for that," Jones said. "They tell me that if I keep running the ball like I have been, they'll keep blocking. I tell them if they give me a hole, I'll definitely take it."