The battle to replace Jeff Sinclair just got more interesting.
Former Penn State quarterback Paul Jones announced via Twitter that he will transfer to Robert Morris at the end of the semester to continue his education and his football career. Jones decided to transfer in late September after being moved to tight end and being passed on the quarterback depth chart by Stephen Bench. Jones finished his Penn State career with one reception for seven yards and one rush for minus-7 yards.
It doesn't come as a surprise to those around Robert Morris, as Jones is a McKees Rocks, Pa. native, just a few miles away from the Moon Township campus. He's also close friends with the DiMichele family, including former Robert Morris linebacker Alex DiMichele.
Jones visited Robert Morris in October, checking out the win over Central Connecticut State. Sources told ColonialsCorner he also visited St. Francis (Pa.) and explored a couple of Division I FCS schools. Jones will be a junior and have two years of eligibility remaining, something he would have had at any level of school because of the Penn State sanctions.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said the drop down to the FCS level, including getting away from the bright lights of a BCS school, might be what Jones needs.
"Jones has all the physical tools it takes to be a great quarterback at any level, especially his athleticism, escapability and his arm strength. Perhaps dialing it down a notch to the FCS level will allow many of these things to come out where they didn't at Penn State and the game should slow down for him a bit," Farrell said. "His upside out of high school was sky high and oftentimes it's the off field stuff and picking up the offense that can hurt a quarterback. Perhaps this will be the change he needs."
The potential boost for Robert Morris is also pretty significant. Jones will be the favorite, though likely not guaranteed, to take over for Sinclair after Sinclair plays his final game this Saturday. Sophomore Matt Layman and freshman Derik Abbott will also be in the mix when competition picks up in the spring, but Layman has been inconsistent in his three starts in relief of Sinclair. Abbott has spent the season as the third quarterback while running the scout team, though the coaching staff is high on his future.
Jones is believed to be the first four-star recruit to land at Robert Morris at any point in his career, though he's far from the first FBS transfer. DiMichele transferred from Temple to Robert Morris after his freshman season, and former quarterback Joe DeSanzo also transferred from Temple. Current tight end D.J. Pearson spent time with Akron, though he didn't appear in a game.
Ultimately, Jones could have picked any school interested. He chose Robert Morris, and it's likely that DiMichele and a large, nearby support network played a major role. Robert Morris runs a similar offense to Penn State, Jones will be out of the limelight, and he'll have a large group of friendly faces just down the road.
Jones will enroll in January, allowing him to participate in spring practice in March.
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.