Avery Jones comes to Champaign from East Carolina University, where he started every game of the 2022 season at center for the Pirates. The standout offensive lineman now has one year of eligibility left, which he plans to use in Champaign with Bart Miller and Bret Bielema.
As a 4-star prospect coming out of high school, Jones originally signed with the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2018, but entered the transfer portal before the 2020 season, ultimately bringing him to ECU. After three seasons with the ECU Pirates, Jones entered the transfer portal again just about two weeks ago after the conclusion of the 2022 season, before then choosing Illinois over interest from the South Carolina Gamecocks, Missouri Tigers, and others.
At 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, Jones is exactly the type of player that Bret Bielema wants as the anchor of his offensive line. And with the Alex Pihlstrom playing his last game for the orange and blue after the ReliaQuest Bowl, Jones arrives just in time to provide an immediate impact.
To get an idea of how Jones plays in game action, check out the highlights of ECU’s 4-OT win over the Memphis Tigers earlier this year. With regards to run-blocking, I especially like how he opens the A-gap for the Pirates’ final touchdown of regulation:
He also demonstrates high-level pass blocking abilities against the solid Memphis interior defensive front.
Avery’s four years of playing experience will allow him to fit right into the Illini offensive line in a similar manner to recent Illinois JUCO transfers Zy Crisler and Isaiah Adams. In fact, Avery could very well start alongside Crisler and Adams in 2023, with Julian Pearl and Jordyn Slaughter potentially rounding out the starting offensive line.
All in all, this was a massive pickup by Miller and Bielema. Nothing can sink a season faster than an ineffective offensive line, but with Avery now in the fold, it seems very possible that the Illini o-line could be poised to be even stronger in 2023.
Welcome to the Illini Avery Jones!