Of the many reasons that head coach Scottie Montgomery would leave the comfort of coaching at Duke to take over the East Carolina program, one reason has to be among the top.
Than chance to coach wide receiver Isaiah Jones during his final year with the Pirates would make any offensive minded coach jump. Jones, with a good 2016 season, should end his career second in school history in many receiving categories.
Zay Jones, as he prefers to be called, came to East Carolina as a legacy recruit. His father Robert Jones was one of the better defensive players to come up of the program in the 1980s before heading to the NFL as a linebacker and part of three Super Bowl teams. Not only did his father play at ECU, but Jones' uncle, Jeff Blake, was one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history and had a very nice career in the NFL. Despite the accomplishments of his family at East Carolina, Jones never thought he would end up at the AAC program.
The Austin, Texas native was a three-star recruit out of high school. He had a very good senior season, but the offense was not set up to feature the pass. He ended his season with only 36 catches for 439 yards and six touchdowns. He added just over 200 yards rushing to his statistical output.
For the majority of his high school career, ending up at East Carolina never even crossed his mind. He always figured that he would end up going to a different school and make his own mark away from the pressure of living up to his dad and uncle. Then, East Carolina came with a full court press at the start of his senior season season.
At the time, only Colorado, Arkansas State, and East Carolina saw the value of what Jones could produce on the field and offered him a role on their teams. When it came down to making a decision, Jones went east to fulfill a family legacy with the Pirates in the 2013 recruiting class.
From the moment he stepped foot on campus, it was clear that East Carolina got the steal of the recruiting class in Jones. He was a talented receiver that could catch the long ball, but also turn a short catch into a long gain. Jones quickly found his role in the offense, making seven starts as a true freshman in route to Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors. He ended the season with 62 catches for 604 yards and five touchdowns.
With a move to the AAC for its inaugural season, Jones helped star receiver Justin Hardy make up one of the most dynamic receiving duos in college football. The two combined for 202 catches, 2,324 yards, and 15 touchdowns on the season. Jones contributed 81 catches for 830 yards and five touchdowns to the total.
Finally the go to receiver in 2015, Jones did not disappoint with a 98 catch, 1,099, yard, five touchdown season. He was named to the Second Team All-AAC squad. Though the Pirates missed out on a bowl berth in 2015, he was one of the standout players in the AAC.
Jones heads into his senior season with 241 catches for 2,533 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is third in school history in catches and yards. He needs only 27 catches and 468 yards receiving to pass Dwayne Harris. Jones should easily find himself behind only Justin Hardy in both of those categories when he leaves ECU.
Zay is also #80 in career receptions, tied with Brandon Stokley of Louisiana and Roy Williams of Texas with 241. With another season like 2015, Jones would end up with more than 330 receptions, something that has only been accomplished by Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma and Hardy.
For a program that has produces a significant amount of receiving talent, Zay Jones has earned a spot in the upper echelon.