Stanford’s top running back has left the team — and he’ll be suiting up against the Cardinal in September.
Junior Austin Jones committed to USC on Thursday, he announced on Twitter. Jones’ departure headlines a large group of Cardinal players that have entered the transfer portal in the offseason following Stanford’s 3-9 season in 2021 — including several starters and two junior running backs, Jones and Nathaniel Peat, who both transferred prior to their senior year.
Peat committed to the University of Missouri two days before Jones, and fifth-year fullback Houston Heimuli transferred to BYU in December. Fifth-year outside linebacker Gabe Reid, fifth-year defensive end Ryan Johnson and senior outside linebacker Andres Fox, among others, remain in the transfer portal.
Jones’ departure in particular will sting for a Stanford program reeling from its worst season in over a decade, not least because he’ll play for the Trojans as they threaten to spark a renaissance with the blockbuster hire of former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. Jones, a four-star recruit out of Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, joins the third-ranked transfer class in the country at USC.
Jones ended the 2021 season with 645 total yards, 378 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He has two years of eligibility remaining due to COVID-19 rules, despite being a three-year starter on the Farm.
Stanford is far from the only team experiencing significant roster turnover via the transfer portal. This year 1,194 FBS players entered the portal, including many high profile players such as former five-star quarterbacks JT Daniels from Georgia, Caleb Williams from Oklahoma and Jaxson Dart from USC. The latter two started much of the season for their respective schools.
The Cardinal and head coach David Shaw have shown, slowly, that they might be adapting as well; Stanford added the second and third graduate transfers ever in program history in quarterback Isaiah Sanders and safety Patrick Fields over the past three years. But the stability the program enjoyed in previous years, when undergraduate transfers out of the program were rare, looks to be eroding — Jones and Peat were entrenched starters who left Stanford before the end of their undergraduate careers.
Next year, Stanford’s backfield is expected to be led by sophomores E.J. Smith and Casey Filkins, who impressed in limited playing time in 2021. They’ll face off against Jones and the Trojans on Sept. 10 on the Farm.