When linebacker Keandre Jones transferred to Maryland in January, he was three seasons into an uninspiring career at Ohio State. The former four-star prospect at Good Counsel High School (Md.) appeared in 16 games for the Buckeyes, notching 29 total tackles, one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. He showed flashes of potential, but could never break through in a talented position group.
In just two games with the Terps, that potential has turned into elite production. Jones has recorded 3.5 sacks so far, tied for third most in the country. He's also tied for second on the defense with 12 total tackles and forced a fumble early in the Terps' 63-20 win against Syracuse Sept. 7 that helped now-No. 21 Maryland gain separation.
It's been a dream start for Jones, who didn't know whether he'd be immediately eligible until August. He emerged as a leader in spring camp, where he set an example with his constant effort. He started to wonder if he'd be able to play for Maryland this fall, but when the NCAA made its decision, he was ready to take advantage.
"It starts in practice," Jones said Sept. 10. "I've been consistent with my efforts in practice, and it's one of those things where you know your time is coming, and that's what I did -- I stayed down and I put in the work and I'm just happy to see the results."
That approach to practice has been noticed by teammates and coaches alike, and it's a big part of why Jones will serve as a captain at Temple Sept. 14.
"He is one of those guys that practices like his hair is on fire," head coach Michael Locksley said. "He will give you every ounce of energy that he has and effort that he has, and that's the type of player he's been since I've seen him as an eighth-grader 'till now."
Jones pledged to Maryland in December 2014 and was committed for more than a year. But after Locksley was not retained by new head coach DJ Durkin, Jones looked elsewhere, ultimately flipping to Ohio State along with quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Three years later, with Locksley replacing Durkin and Jones in the transfer portal, it was the perfect time to come back home.
"Honestly, I still haven't found the words for what it feels like to play at home," Jones said. "I can't tell you what that feeling is. All I know is I'm excited, I know my teammates are excited I'm back here, I know my family and friends are excited I'm back here, and we're 2-0, so we're just looking to keep it going."
Jones is part of a five-player transfer group that also includes grad transfers Josh Jackson, Tyler Mabry and Shaq Smith (who missed the Syracuse game but is expected to play against Temple). Each of these players comes from a program accustomed to success, especially Jones at Ohio State and Smith at Clemson.
"All these grad transfers that we've added have just brought a different mentality to the rest of our team," Locksley said. "Not that we didn't have leaders already in our program, but you always talk about success leaving clues, and these guys have been a part of some successful programs."
Some Terps knew Jones before he came back home; others didn't. But with the way he practices and the way he's played so far, he's quickly endeared himself to everyone in the locker room.
Several of Jones' Maryland teammates knew him before he came back home, and they all believed he was capable of a start like this. But it's another thing to see it all come to fruition.
"I'm so proud of Keandre," senior cornerback Marcus Lewis said. "I've known him for a long time, we played against each other in high school, and just to see him kind of evolve and do his thing, I'm really not surprised because I always knew he was a great player, but just for him to actually show it and show everybody else, I'm really happy for him."
RANKINGS REVIVAL: Maryland checked in at No. 21 in this week's AP poll, its first time in the top 25 since 2013. The Terps haven't been ranked this high since 2006, and a win Sept. 14 could move them into the top 20 for the first time since 2003. However, Maryland has lost its last four contests as a ranked team, a streak that dates back to that 2006 squad.
PILING UP POINTS: The Terps' 142 points through two contests are tied for the third most by any FBS team since 1936. Most recently, Ole Miss scored 149 points in its first two games of the 2015 season. The Rebels started that year ranked No. 17, then beat FCS Tennessee-Martin, 76-3, and Fresno State, 73-21. They beat Alabama in their next game and shot up to No. 3 in the rankings, then fell as low as No. 24 before ultimately finishing No. 10 and posting a 10-3 record. Maryland probably won't shoot that high in the rankings, but this start is historic nonetheless -- and the 71 points per game are almost as many as the basketball team averaged (71.4) last season.
THE AGELESS WONDER: Former Maryland tight end Vernon Davis is in his 14th NFL season, but the 35-year-old still has the agility of a rookie, and he showed it in the first quarter of the Washington Redskins' season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
While the play itself might stand up as one of the best in the NFL this season, the moment meant so much more to Davis.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox