NFL veteran Shaun King didn’t work out at quarterback. Now the Gladiators hope going the opposite direction will be the answer.
Former af2 standout Brian Jones makes his first Arena Football League start today when Las Vegas (1-5) plays at the Georgia Force (5-1).
Gladiators coach Danton Barto said he thinks Jones can successfully jump to the AFL, much like Las Vegas wide receiver Kevin Prentiss, who set an AFL record with nine touchdown catches March 8 at Grand Rapids.
“Kevin Prentiss was a dominant player in af2, and Brian Jones, to me, has been the best quarterback in af2 the last two years,” said Barto, who coached Prentiss and Jones with the af2’s Memphis Xplorers. “Yeah, it’s a transition, but I don’t think it should be a huge one. He understands the game, he understands the speed of the game. The difference is, obviously, guys are bigger, faster and stronger, but I think good players pick their game up faster than other guys.”
Jones led Memphis to three consecutive playoff appearances and won the title two years ago. Last season, he completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 3,937 yards and 81 touchdowns.
He also has been an adept runner, scoring 15 rushing touchdowns last season and 23 in 2005.
Whether he produces similar numbers with the Gladiators remains to be seen, but Jones has at least shown he has a good working relationship with Barto.
“We’ve been together so long, we kind of think the same,” Barto said. “We have the same kind of direction of what we’re trying to do. He understands on each play what we’re really looking at. It makes it easier because I’ve had him so long I know what Brian does well, so I try to keep him out of situations that he’s not comfortable with.”
Jones was in the uncomfortable — and unusual — situation of watching from the box as King directed the team through the first six games.
King struggled to pick up the AFL game and wasn’t helped by having so many inexperienced players around him.
“They wanted to give him an opportunity to succeed,” Jones said. “I kind of knew the situation coming into camp. It’s a tough game. I think the transition from the NFL to arena football is probably a little tougher than from the AFL to the NFL, just because of the speed of the game. I think we needed to switch something up, and hopefully give this team a breath of fresh air.”
Jones faces a tough debut. Georgia is a three-touchdown favorite today and one of the top contenders for the ArenaBowl title this season.
“I’m just going to try to be efficient and not force balls downfield,” Jones said. “Just get the ball in my receivers’ hands. Hopefully, they can make the big plays for us. Just throw and catch out there, and I think we can be OK.”
• TALKING TOLEDO — Jones played his college ball at Toledo, where he led the Rockets to a 38-21 victory over UNLV in 2002.
He said he was “extremely surprised” to see his school in the news recently for an alleged point-shaving scheme in football and basketball.
“It was an extremely clean and classy organization when I was there,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, a couple of players made some bad decisions, and now it makes the whole university look bad. It’s going to be a stain on that school for many years to come now.”Las Vegas Gladiators
LAS VEGAS VS. GEORGIA
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. today
WHERE: Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV/RADIO: FSW (49); KBAD-AM (920)
LINE: Force -21; total 108