Huskies sophomore WR Ty Jones speaks after Day 1 of spring practice
Ty Jones stood out because he was too hard to ignore.
Being 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds tends to help. So does wearing an unorthodox number for a receiver. Most players at that position will wear something between 80 and 89. Or they'll wear a single digit, or if they want to go full-on Odell Beckham, they'll shoot for a number in the teens.
Jones and his No. 20 were hard to miss on Wednesday when the Washington Huskies opened spring practice. March and April are the two months in the college football season when every player and program burst with potential. The Huskies are no different as many believe they can win the Pac-12 and challenge for a College Football Playoff semifinal berth.
UW has experienced and well-known quantities like quarterback Jake Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin. But the interest, especially in the spring, is provided in the unknowns. This is why Jones and everything he's capable of doing is so alluring.
"Yeah, Ty Jones has been doing a good job all winter and that showed today," Browning said. "But Day 1 versus Day 15, he's gotta keep building progress and something special could happen. Right now, he had a good Day 1. I think a lot of people had a good Day 1 but who's going to have a good Day 2, Day 3, Day 4?"
There was a point when the quarterbacks and receivers broke away from the rest of the group on the practice field to do some work on the Husky Stadium turf. Jones, a sophomore, and junior Andre Baccellia were in the first pairing to go through drills and largely worked with Browning.
UW's rotation led to freshman quarterback Colson Yankoff getting a chance to throw to Jones. Yankoff, a four-star recruit, threw a 30-yard pass Jones effortlessly chased down and captured in stride.
Later on, Browning threw a pass in Jones' direction. As cornerback Austin Joyner was closing in, Jones made a diving catch drawing everyone's attention.
"Just a little bit of solid work in the offseason starting to pay off but gotta lot of film work to do. Lot more work to do," Jones said after practice. "I'm up in pounds for sure. Speed definitely increased. I'm running a 4.5 (40-yard time) versus a 4.6 last year, so, just trying to put on as much pounds as I can and compete."
Of course as Jones was talking about his offseason, a few of his teammates walked by with big smiles and either screamed his name or yelled at him as he was surrounded by a throng of reporters.
It might come across as a bit much but there's a reason for such a production.
Getting Jones to Montlake was a massive step for Huskies coach Chris Petersen and his staff. Jones committed to Utah in July 2015 and was pledged to the Utes for nearly a year until backing off in March 2016. He committed to UW in May and continually affirmed his choice as other programs like Ohio State made a play for his services.
As a high school junior, he caught 53 passes for 989 yards and 14 touchdowns. He increased those numbers as a senior, catching 63 balls for 1,523 yards and 20 TDs. UCLA made a late run leading up to National Signing Day but the four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American signed with UW.
Jones was an early enrollee who was in spring practice last season and would play a bit role in his first season (seven receptions for 71 yards). He had four receptions for 46 yards in UW's final two contests against Washington State and Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Huskies could afford to gradually develop Jones over the course of a full season. Not this year. UW lost star receiver Dante Pettis to graduation and must now find a way to replace Browning's No. 1 target while trying to bolster a passing offense ranked 72nd last season after finishing 40th the season before.
UW returns receivers with varying experience but Jones' mix of size, speed and strength gives the offense someone who could potentially win battles with smaller and/or larger defensive backs.
"You like everybody as big and as tall and as fast as they could be," Petersen said. "But we really just look at productivity when we recruit guys. It's nice if they have that but its not imperative. You like them all 6-4 and running four-nothing and super quick but that's not how they're all built.
"We just take good players and mix and match the group and away we go."