Talented Jones must handle the details to earn field time

CLEMSON -- The call was a simple screen pass, and Clemson receiver Marquan Jones knew he had his assignment down.

Here came the linebacker, and Jones remembered he was to attack the potential tackler's inside shoulder.

At the last instant, Jones forgot to lift his front foot and step across for contact.

The linebacker slid by and busted the screen play to make the tackle, giving Jones a moment to forget during Thursday's practice.

"Just that detail, I missed the block," Jones said. "And I got chewed out pretty good."

It is just those details that stand to minimize the freshman from Blythewood High's role during the early stages of the Tigers' season.

Jones (6-0, 191 pounds) drew rave reviews as an early enrollee in spring drills, highlighting the last scrimmage by making seven catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

But the reality of how difficult it would be to crack Clemson's veteran lineup has set in this month, as Jones figures to settle in behind senior Tyler Grisham, junior Jacoby Ford and senior Nelson Faerber at the team's slot receiver positions.

"In the spring, you don't have a game you're looking forward to, and everybody's getting back into shape," Jones said. "Now it's more intense. You've got to be snapping and be perfect in every aspect of your game."

Jones said his struggles have stemmed from learning both the "A" and "Z" receiver spots in Clemson's scheme.

The "A" is almost exclusively a slot position, while the "Z" can be either inside or out, depending on the number of receivers in the formation.

"His attention to detail still has to improve for him to be the player we need him to be," receivers coach Dabo Swinney said. "Athleticism, talent, he's a pretty special player. But he's still making some mistakes that could cost us."

Swinney said he hopes to use Jones and redshirt freshman Brandon Clear in much the same manner sophomore Xavier Dye was brought along gradually a year ago.

Dye played 156 snaps in 13 games and is being groomed to replace senior Aaron Kelly.

But while Dye is not being counted on as a major factor this season, Swinney said Jones likely will have to be ready in 2009 because of the departures of Grisham, Faerber and maybe even Ford.

"We're going to lose guys we greatly depend on who all know calculus," Sweeney said.

"Marquan's learning pre-algebra right now, so I have to get Marquan and Clear to at least algebra two like I did Xavier. We've got a lot of work to do, but hopefully it will be a great growth area."