Jones just shrugs his shoulder at the new assignment.
"If (the slot is) the position where I can help my team right now, then I've got to study books, the plays, and get in as best as I know," Jones said. "From learning the X, I know all the routes the Z has. As far as the playbook goes, I remember all the concepts of the plays. Knowing those routes won't be much of a problem."
"The advantage that (Jones) has is the understanding now of the concepts, how the X and the Z work together," Kelly said. "They're constantly together, so there is a connection there that, 'Well, I ran this route, I know the complement to the route.'
"Where TJ is now by playing so much and getting all that work at the X, he understands the concept, so it's easy for him to fill in the blanks and just move inside and be the complementary piece to what he was running out at the X position. That's the big difference, understanding of the concept."
"TJ's been getting work at Z the last couple weeks, so he's really been involved in the game plan as a potential backup at Z since Boston College week," said Irish offensive coordinator Charlie Molnar. "He played Z most of the spring. He's a good conceptual learner."
As the grind of the season has worn on, Jones' productivity has diminished. In the first three games, he caught eight passes for 124 yards and two scores. In four games since, he's nabbed four passes for 79 yards and no scores.
"(Production problems) are just the way the game plan goes," Jones rationalized. "We're going to go with plays that do best for us and help our team win. I might not be gettin' the ball, but I'm helping to open up another receiver."
"Probably Theo Riddick, you know, obviously coming along," Kelly suggested as a reason for Jones' lower numbers. "The closer to the ball, the better opportunity you have to get the football unless you're the match-up one-on-one guy, which Mike Floyd is.
"Probably play calling puts him in a different situation. Now that he moves closer to the ball, he's going to get more opportunities."
"Some of it is the play and practice habits of John Goodman," Molnar said of the receiver who was sharing snaps at the X with Jones. "TJ and (Goodman) started splitting reps. There's only so many catches to go around. We're runnin' the ball. We have other guys to throw to. His production was cut in half because he's only playin' half the time."
Injuries have changed that scenario. All of a sudden, Jones is the man at a position where speed and explosiveness are valued commodities. He's replacing Riddick who has caught 38 passes for 406 yards and three TDs.
"(The pressure to perform is) just a form of motivation - keep pushin', stay sharp, help me be the best receiver I could be; also, to show, never get complacent because at any point in time, someone can move into your spot," Jones said. "You've gotta keep thinking about the excitement; the feeling you get running out of that tunnel (into the stadium). That love you have for the game is why you play."
That's the college football reality for Jones. It's a concept of which he should never lose sight.
Staff writer Al Lesar: email@example.com 574-235-6318