This article is a part of our 2013 Player Projections series. During the summer months Blue & Gold Illustrated will be evaluating players on Notre Dame’s projected two-deep depth chart — reviewing their careers to this point and discussing expectations for the year to come.
Sophomore Jarron Jones needed to learn how to compete on a daily basis during his first year at Notre Dame.
DE Jarron Jones
6-foot-5 | 299 pounds
Experience: Redshirted as a freshman in 2012
Sophomore Jarron Jones’ size as an 18 year old made him physically capable of competing on the college level as soon as he arrived on campus. It also kept him from being where he needed to be mentally to get on the field as a freshman at Notre Dame.
Jones dominated his competition at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y., in high school. So much so that his coaches asked him to hold back in practice so his teammates could get the work they needed. Unfortunately for Jones, he never learned the practice habits needed to succeed at the next level and had to spend his first full year in South Bend getting used to the day-to-day grind of BCS football.
“Jarron is starting to play like a freshman in college. He was playing like a high school senior a year ago in terms of his immaturity, his lack of aggressiveness,” Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston said in April. “It wasn’t because he was soft. He just wasn’t quite ready for that mentally. And now he’s gotten ready for that mentally.”
Jones didn’t play during his first fall in South Bend. Notre Dame had enough depth on the defensive line to give him time to grow physically and mentally stronger. Teammates, especially senior nose guard Louis Nix, helped toughen him up with some tough love. Nix routinely let Jones know how bad he was in his typical boisterous style.
“That helped me pick my game up,” Jones said. “I don’t like getting picked on by Lou because he’s the loudest person in the locker room. So, of course, if he picks on me everybody is going to hear it and everyone is going to start laughing.”
Jones showed a bit of his progress this spring at the Blue-Gold game where he made four tackles including two sacks for a combined loss of 14 yards.
2013 Job Description
Junior Stephon Tuitt and senior Justin Utupo are both listed ahead of Jones on the depth chart this summer. It’s hard to imagine, though, that the Irish won’t find a need for Jones’ size on the field in 2013.
Utupo has bounced from linebacker to defensive line during his first three years at Notre Dame and has a frame that falls somewhere between the two positions. He added 20 pounds this offseason, but is still undersized at 6-0, 280 pounds. The loss of Chase Hounshell, who tore a muscle in his shoulder for the second time in two years this spring, puts a bigger premium on big-bodied defensive lineman this season. Jones will need to work his way into the rotation.
What make a good year?
Questions surrounded Jones' ability to compete on defense before he showed up on campus. Many projected he would eventually flip to the offensive line because he lacked the aggression and explosion needed to play defense and because the Irish needed help there. With two very strong recruiting classes on the offensive line, Jones will need to make his mark on defense, and the time to start is this fall.
“He’s going to be a factor,” Elston said in the spring.
Jones has a great opportunity to learn from Tuitt in practice and on game days this season. There’s a good chance the door will be open for him to take over that job in 2014. A good year for Jones would prove that he’s ready to step in as a starter in the future. He has the physical talent to make 10-20 tackles this season while taking 10-15 snaps per game.
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