Nate Jones, a dynamic running back who did not practice during the University of New Mexico’s spring football drills, has entered the transfer portal, he announced on Twitter Friday night.
Jones, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound freshman, was second on the team last season with 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries.
“I just felt like I needed a change for myself, a different opportunity than the one I had at New Mexico,” Jones said on Saturday. “I’m still deciding on what school to go to.”
UNM coach Danny Gonzales said he gave the same message to the Journal that he does for any player who enters the transfer portal.
“Anybody that wants to go in the transfer portal and wants to go somewhere else, I’m more than OK with that because of the expectations that we have around here,” Gonzales said. “They’re not for everybody, and sometimes people need a different scenery.”
Gonzales never specified why Jones was absent for the spring. Jones also would not comment on the reason. Gonzales only would say on Saturday that Jones did not meet “our expectations,” just as he said in March.
“There’s a certain expectation that everybody on the team is expected to meet,” Gonzales said. “If they meet those expectations they’ll be out here and participating in workouts. And if they don’t, they won’t.”
Jones showed explosiveness and great potential when he ran for 96 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in a 39-33 loss at Hawaii on Nov. 7, which was his debut. He had sat out the week prior because he had been in close contact with a teammate who tested positive for COVID-19 and was near the end of a 14-day quarantine.
Jones posted highlights from that game on Twitter, along with a short message: “On to the next chapter.”
On to the next chapter. pic.twitter.com/jtJ1PTyk1l
— Nathaniel Jones (@Sandbeast24) May 22, 2021
A former St. John Bosco (Bellflower, California) standout, helping the Braves to a 2019 state title along with current Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, Jones was the Lobos’ prize freshman and among the highest-rated recruits in the Mountain West Conference for the 2020 class.
Jones led St. John Bosco in rushing during its 2019 postseason run after a slow start to his senior season. He was coming off a torn left ACL he sustained during the first game of his junior year when he was rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN and received offers from Georgia, Oregon, Florida, Arizona State and UCLA. He initially committed to the Bruins.
Jones then de-committed from UCLA and began looking at USC. But the Trojans didn’t have room for him, and USC coach Clay Helton called current UNM defensive coordinator Rocky Long to let him know about Jones, Gonzales said.
Gonzales was asked in March what it would take for Jones to return to practices.
“Do everything right,” Gonzales said. “That’s all I’ll say, do everything right.”
Later in the spring, Gonzales said he expected UNM to have one of the best backfields in the Mountain West. Gonzales said on Saturday that he still stands by that statement, but that the Lobo offensive line needs to step up for that to happen.
The UNM running backs showed great ability during the spring and provided many highlights during practices and scrimmages.
Senior Bobby Cole, a physical runner, is the leader of the group. He ran for 410 yards and three touchdowns on 79 carries last season.
Aaron Dumas, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound incoming freshman, ran for 3,165 yards and 36 touchdowns on 345 carries in 2019 for Americas High School in El Paso. He had offers from Arizona State, San Diego State and Fresno State, among others. He was an early high school graduate and was with the Lobos during the spring, when he showed great versatility.
Chad Alexander, a 5-6, 192-pound sophomore, improved considerably during the spring and became known as one of the hardest workers on the team. Sophomore Bobby Wooden moved to running back from wide receiver during the spring to help provide depth.