TAMPA — Ronald Jones, Jr., lost yards whenever he touched the football for the Bucs last season. Then he lost his confidence.
The second-pick from Southern Cal was supposed to be the Bucs’ home run hitter, a big-play running back who had explosive runs for the Trojans.
Only 21, Jones’ rookie year was a disaster. He finished with 44 yards on 23 carries (1.9 yard average) and one touchdown. He caught seven passes for 33 yards.
Jones is expected to be the No. 2 tailback behind Peyton Barber, the team’s leading rusher with 871 yards and five touchdowns. This time he knows what to expect.
“Rojo had 23 carries on the season and 13 of those he got hit at or behind the line of scrimmage,’’ Bucs running backs coach Todd McNair said. “So the biggest thing with him is restoring his confidence. I think once we start getting him to the second level clean. You know, a guy comes out of college, USC is a high-profile program. A second round pick and he doesn’t have a lot of success. I’ve seen it happen before and his confidence goes way down. With him its baby steps and working our approach.’’
Jones is ready to go to work. It remains to be seen whether he can out-perform Barber but would find immediate playing time if he were able to fill a third down role as a blocker and pass catcher.
“Most definitely. He’s young and he’s a little immature,’’ McNair said. “Rojo to me, and I don’t really know his family background, but it seems like he didn’t have a strong male figure in his life but he’s got them all over the place. But he’s a great kid. He’s working hard.’’