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Examining the interception concerns of Arizona State's new QB Emory Jones

Anthony Totri Avatar
May 9, 2022

The transfer of redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones injected the Arizona State football program with a shot of adrenaline after the loss of three-year starter Jayden Daniels to LSU. Not all of the reviews were positive, however. Some pundits and fans didn’t like the move due to Jone’s penchant for turnovers.

Jones threw 14 interceptions in his four-year stint with the Florida Gators; 13 of those came in 2021. While 14 interceptions may seems like an insignificant amount, I examined each pick from Jones’ Florida tenure to see how many fell on his shoulders. 

No. 1: Sept. 26, 2020, 51-35 win vs. Ole Miss

Jones takes the snap out of the shotgun, rolls and tucks the ball to his right to give the impression of a run. The fake itself looks lackluster. Jones then pulls the ball back out to indicate a pass play.

An Ole Miss defender breaks through the offensive line easily and hits Jones around the waist while he’s in his throwing motion. The hit doesn’t allow Jones to fully step into the throw, thus losing power. A pass that appears to be intended for a one-on-one matchup falls well short and becomes a thrown interception into double coverage. 

Nos. 2 & 3: Sept. 4, 2021, 35-14 win vs. FAU

The Gators take an early 14-0 lead, and are looking to make it 21-0 with a possession inside the red zone. Jones takes the snap from the shotgun on third and seven. As the play starts, he immediately looks left and appears to be staring down his first read the entire play. 

Regardless of the read, Jones throws a flat pass to his target. I’m not sure if Jones didn’t see the underneath defender or if he simply thought he put enough on the pass to get it to his wideout in the back of the end zone. Either way, it was an ill-advised throw in the red zone with a clean pocket. FAU takes over on a touchback. 

Prior to Jones’ second interception of the game and third of his career, the Gators lead FAU 21-0.  Jones is set from the shotgun once again on first down.  He tucks the ball and takes a step forward, indicating a run play before taking a step back and looking down field for a wide receiver. The play design looks to be either a unique run-pass option (RPO) or simply a play fake. 

Jones has a clean pocket before launching a pass about 30 yards down field. The ball again falls flat, leaving the wide receiver without an opportunity to make a play on it. A defensive back picks it off relatively easily. 

Nos. 4 & 5: Sept. 11, 42-20 win vs. USF

The fourth interception of Jones’ collegiate career comes with the Gators stomping South Florida, 35-3, early in the second half. Jones takes the snap alone in the shotgun with a trips formation to his left and two wideouts split to his right. 

It’s clear when watching the play unfold that Jones is anticipating redshirt junior wide receiver Justin Shorter to run a quick hitch. The miscommunication paired with an extremely lazy pass from Jones leads to arguably the easiest interception of USF senior cornerback Mekhi Lapointe’s career.

Jones’ second interception of the game comes on the ensuing Florida offensive possession. This time around Jones takes the snap under center. He sells the play-action and as a result, has a clean pocket to make a solid play.

Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones drops back to pass in the first half against the UCF Knights on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (USA TODAY Sports)

However, Jones fires to the left side of the field without seeing the underneath corner who bails on a check-down option. The USF corner jumps the pass and returns it a good chunk of yards.

No. 6: Sept 18, 31-29 loss to No. 1 Alabama

The Gators trail the Crimson Tide 14-3 early in the first quarter. Following an Alabama touchdown and two wasted downs, the Gators are faced with a third-and-long situation. Jones is set up in the shotgun in an empty set, (no running backs in the gun with him). 

Soon after the snap, the Alabama right end breaks inside on a stunt that the Gators’ offensive line is unable to pick up. Jones doesn’t react fast enough to make a move away from the defender so when he begins to throw the ball, he is unable to step into it. 

The hit sends Jones to the ground, while the pass sails well beyond the intended wide receiver’s head and into the hands of an Alabama defender. 

No. 7: Oct. 2, 20-13 loss to Kentucky

The Gators are in a tight one with the Wildcats, trailing 13-10. Jones is in the shotgun with the ball on the Florida 30-yard line. He takes the snap and glances to his left, trying to get the defense to bite on a head fake. Jones doesn’t appear to sell the fake well enough before firing to his wideout running up the left seam.

Despite a clean pocket, Jones vastly underthrows his wideout, making it rather easy for the trailing cornerback, who didn’t bite on the head fake, to haul in the interception. Unfortunately for Gators’ fans, Kentucky scores on the ensuing drive, extending its lead late in the game. 

No. 8: Oct. 9, 42-0 win vs. Vanderbilt

The eighth interception of Jones’ career is likely the least meaningful. Florida already leads Vanderbilt 42-0 as the third quarter winds down. Jones takes the snap from the shotgun at the Florida 14-yard line with nearly four minutes left in the quarter. 

The former Gator quarterback sells the inside-zone handoff before pulling it back and firing to his wideout who appears to cut his route short. The pass is tipped due to the clear miscommunication and a Vanderbilt defensive back makes an acrobatic play by diving and getting underneath the ball before it hits the ground.

Nos. 9 & 10: Oct. 16, 49-42 loss to LSU

This loss to LSU is a turning point in Jones’ tenure with the Gators. Florida trails the Tigers near the midpoint of the second quarter, facing a third down on LSU’s side of the field. 

Jones takes the snap from the shotgun and goes through a couple of reads as the Tigers’ defensive ends crash and begin to close the pocket. As opposed to taking a sack, Jones heaves a pass across the middle to a wide receiver who has LSU junior cornerback Cordale Flott draped on his back. 

BJ Ojulari gets the sack as LSU takes on Florida in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 16. (USA TODAY NETWORK)

Jones doesn’t step into the throw, causing the pass to trail behind its intended target. The ball is tipped and lands in the hands of a Tigers’ linebacker. 

The following interception comes at the beginning of the second half with Florida trailing 21-13. Jones is set in the shotgun and takes the snap on third down from deep on Florida’s side of the field. 

The interior of the pocket begins to collapse due to pressure caused by the LSU defensive line. This is another instance where Jones doesn’t step into his pass. He also forces it into a tight window with two LSU defenders on either side of his wideout. 

Sophomore cornerback Dwight McGlothern snags the interception and goes the other way for an LSU touchdown.  

No. 11: Nov. 6, 40-17 loss to South Carolina

The South Carolina game is a rough one for Jones and the Gators, and for more reasons than the play on the field. The week of the game, Jones and several Florida players test positive for the flu. 

In the midst of a beatdown, Jones is attempting to mount a comeback early in the fourth quarter. He takes the snap from the shotgun around midfield, down 40-17. Jones takes a few seconds as the pocket begins to collapse before airing it out to the short side of the field. Another miscommunication between Jones and his wide receiver leaves the South Carolina corner with the only real chance of making the catch along the sideline. 

Redshirt junior wide receiver Jacob Copeland keeps running his route while it looks like Jones is expecting Copeland to come back to the sideline. The Gamecocks’ cornerback keeps his feet in bounds to secure the interception and ultimately the game for South Carolina. 

Nos. 12, 13 & 14: Nov. 27, 24-21 win vs. Florida State

The final game of Jones’ career at Florida is an ugly one. The first interception of the afternoon occurrs at the end of the first quarter. 

Jones is set in a pistol formation. He gives the handoff to his tailback who executes the flea flicker by tossing it back to Jones. Jones steps up in the pocket but is hit by two FSU defensive linemen as he releases the ball. The pass is well off target because of the contact and it lands comfortably in the arms of a Florida State defensive back. 

The second interception of the day comes near the start of the second quarter. The Gators lead 7-0 at the time. Jones takes the snap from the shotgun on second down.

Jones drops and fires the pass shortly after to a wide receiver on the left side of the field. However, it looks like Jones expects the FSU linebacker to continue moving across the field. Instead, the linebacker stops shuffling and finds himself directly in front of Jones’ pass.

The final interception of Jones’ Florida career comes at the end of the first half with Jones trying to give the Gators a lead going into halftime. He takes the snap from the shotgun and looks left before firing across the middle in the end zone.

Similar to several other interceptions that Jones threw, this one is undercut by a defender that Jones didn’t appear to see.


The final pick displays several of the flaws showcased in many of Jones’ other interceptions. At times he struggles to see underneath defenders and he sometimes fails to step up in the pocket, an issue when interior pressure isn’t present.

Out of the 14 interceptions, several came at the hands of Jones not stepping into his throw. Maybe Jones gets caught up with his passing options downfield. Or it’s possible Jones at times feels nonexistent pressure in the pocket. Regardless, Jones’ habit of not stepping into some of his passes is evidently the cause behind many of his turnovers.

Clearly those mistakes cost him passes and games while playing against top-tier talent in the SEC. While the Pac-12 may not feature nearly as many ball-hawking defensive backs, those are issues within Jones’ game he’ll need to clean up if he hopes to have a strong season as a Sun Devil.

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