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Shameen Jones’ role continues to expand in win over Purdue

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The redshirt junior gives Rutgers a much needed second option at wide receiver

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are starting to become an offensive juggernaut in the Big Ten. Okay, not exactly. But after how horrid and utterly unwatchable they’d been the last few seasons, offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson has his guys getting in the end zone like a real college football team.

There were plenty of players who had big roles in Rutgers’ 37-30 upset victory over Purdue Saturday. Johnny Langan, Artur Sitkowski, Isaih Pacheco and Kay’Ron Adams were all instrumental in the win.

Something that can’t be overlooked, however, was the play of Shameen Jones. Because if Rutgers wants to keep their offense rolling, they were going to need a second receiving option to close out the season.

The redshirt junior wide receiver from the Bronx was on the receiving end of both of Sitkowski’s touchdowns, each going for 14 yards. Jones ended up with 88 yards on eight catches to the lead the team in receiving for the second game in a row. The 6-2 180-pounder now has 27 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

Langan was probably the best choice for game ball honors, as he was able to run the ball effectively in an expanded role because starting quarterback Noah Vedral missed the game due to injury. Sitkowski actually started the game for the Scarlet Knights and had a good game himself, throwing for 141 yards passing with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Pacheco was his usual solid self as he averaged 4.2 yards per carry on the night. Adams had a huge 62-yard catch and run that he took the house for the first receiving touchdown of his career.

Bo Melton is the star of the receiving corps, and the offense, and is the type of home run hitter all teams covet. But having a second option in the passing game is critical and Jones is showing he can take some heat off Melton when needed. Jones has really stepped into his own over the last two games, as he had seven receptions for 127 yards in the triple overtime loss to Michigan last week.

Rutgers needed Jones on Saturday versus the Boilermakers. Melton was held in check to the tune of three catches for 31 yards. Some may have been the changes at quarterback and play-calling. Some was definitely thanks to Purdue zeroing in on stopping Melton. When your number one weapon gets shut down, however, teams need someone they can trust to make plays, and Shameen Jones has become that guy.

It’s been a long time coming for Jones. He was one of the top overall prospects in the state of New York when he committed to Rutgers. He was ranked as the top WR by Scout, but he tore his ACL before his senior season at Cardinal Hayes in 2016. Jones would go on to redshirt his freshman year, and after a solid showing as a redshirt freshman during seven starts in 2018, he took a step backward with the rest of the offense last season.

Jones drew praise from coach Greg Schiano for the work he put in during the time players were away from the team because of COVID-19 earlier this season.

“Shameen really, really made a move during the quarantine, which is strange, right?” Schiano said. “Physically he came back from the quarantine, and I will never forget it, I was coming down the tunnel and he was down at the bottom of the tunnel and I said, ‘who’s that?’ And then I got down there and it was Shameen Jones.”

The 11.37 yards per catch Jones averages isn’t otherworldly, but it doesn’t need to be. Though his longest catch has gone for 38 yards, Jones has proven a reliable target with good hands and route running ability.

Jones has found his place in this offense and is showing teams they need to account for more than just Melton in the passing game. This type of play is something the Scarlet Knights needed in order to keep their offensive momentum rolling to end the season.