Walton running back Tyren Jones committed to the Crimson Tide on Tuesday, one day after Harrison punter Jimmy Hutchinson told the Tigers he intended to play for them.
Jones, widely considered to be one of the top running backs in the state entering the 2012 season, made a name for himself last season after transferring from Lassiter, where he played for two years. Playing in the Trojans’ pass-heavy offense as a freshman and sophomore, Jones established himself as a solid and elusive receiver out of the backfield, helping Lassiter to a 12-1 record, quarterfinal state playoff appearance and its first region championship in program history in 2009.
Jones followed that up with a stellar sophomore season as Lassiter made back-to-back state playoff appearances for the first time since the 1999-2000 campaigns.
With his pedigree established, Jones’ move to Walton for the 2011 campaign helped established him as one of the state’s top backs. He led the Raiders to a 14-1 record, a Region 5AAAAA championship and an appearance in the state title game.
The 190-pound Jones carried the ball 319 times for 2,375 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns. He also had 15 receptions for 204 yards and two scores to go along with one punt return for a touchdown and one kickoff return for a score.
According to Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo, Jones received offers from just about every major program in the nation, including Georgia, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt and Duke, among others.
“He really enjoyed his trip (to Alabama),” Hidalgo said. “He went over there on Saturday during Alabama’s Junior Day, and they offered him while he was there. His conversations with assistant coach (Kirby) Smart and (head) coach (Nick) Saban really went well, and he committed Tuesday.
“Alabama’s coming off a national championship, and it’s a great program and a great opportunity, and he recognized that. They’re getting a dynamic playmaker on the field and a wonderful person off of it. He’s a great kid, and he’ll add a lot to the locker room above his football abilities.”
Saban has a history of recruiting Cobb County running backs. Hillgrove’s Kenyan Drake was one of the primary recruits of Alabama’s recently signed class of 2012.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Hutchinson will take his talents to Auburn and kick for the Tigers beginning with the 2013 season. He took an unofficial visit to Auburn on Saturday and informed coach Gene Chizik two days later of his decision to play for the 2010 BCS national champions.
“Auburn was my first official offer,” said Hutchinson, who is one of the top punters in the state and the nation and averaged roughly 40 yards per punt in 2011. “During my visit, I just felt at home. I love the tradition that they have there, and the atmosphere, and it just felt right.”
Saturday’s visit was the second in the last month for Hutchinson, who also visited the campus during Auburn’s Junior Day a few weeks ago. Auburn offered him a week prior to his Junior Day visit, but it wasn’t until Saturday’s unofficial visit that he knew the Tigers were his best choice.
“After Saturday’s visit, I came back and talked it over with my parents to make sure that it was the right decision and to make sure it was where I wanted to be,” Hutchinson said. “They’re happy with my decision.
“I’m glad it’s out of the way. The stress is off my back on making a decision and I can focus on my senior year and trying to become an all-American and have a good season.”
Former Harrison coach David Hines is excited for Hutchinson and grateful that he’ll have the opportunity to continue his playing career in college.
“(Auburn is) getting an outstanding young man,” he said. “He’s a hard worker, he’s self-motivated, and he’s improved so much these last two years. He’s earned all of the accolades he’s received.
“The ball just explodes off his foot. Auburn’s getting a guy that could easily average 42 yards a punt as a freshman. He can put it out there.”