Jarron Jones has seen enough … at least from the sideline. The highly recruited four-star defensive end — he was listed as the No. 107 overall prospect nationally and the 10th-best player at his position by 247Sports — spent 2012 learning Notre Dame’s defense, and what it takes physically and academically to thrive in the college game.
Sophomore defensive end Jarron Jones is ready to contribute after watching in 2012.
The 6-5, 295-pounder from Aquinas Institute in New York experienced the same transitional impediments most freshmen face last year, but he now appears up to speed as a sophomore. It’s a good time for that.
With strong recruiting along the defensive front in recent years, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and defensive line coach Mike Elston had the luxury of sitting Jones as a freshman last fall while Kapron Lewis-Moore and Stephon Tuitt did the heavy lifting. Lewis-Moore, a key figure in Jones’ rapid development and maturation, ran out of eligibility and hopes to latch onto an NFL roster after healing from a knee injury. Tuitt, a junior this year, will need a new partner in crime.
Sophomore Sheldon Day is most likely to snag the starting spot, but Jones is making a push. Junior Chase Hounshell suffered a second devastating injury (he missed all of last year) when he tore his labrum early in spring practice and will probably miss all of 2013. Notre Dame has been able to put a quality starting lineup on the field at all 11 positions on the defensive side of the ball, but the BCS National Championship beat-down by Alabama this past January showed just how much of a premium is placed on depth.
Jones can add just that, along with incoming freshmen Eddie Vanderdoes and Isaac Rochell.
Kelly said Jones’ mom was pivotal in her son’s newfound grasp on the requirements to be successful in South Bend. Lewis-Moore should also be credited with an assist.
“He’s pretty much like taken me under his wing and helped us a lot,” Jones said. “He even had conversations with my mom behind my back. I got pissed off at my mom for it; then I realized she’s just trying to look out for me. I realized he’s trying to look out for me, too. That helped me [have] trust in him, because if you’re cool with my mom, I’ve got to love you. Kap is just like a second father to me; I look up to him. I still keep in touch with him to this day. I kind of thank him for a lot of things he taught me.”
One of the toughest issues Jones had to overcome was ramping up his aggression at practice. Back in high school the big man’s parking break was yanked by Aquinas coaches due to the fact Jones was simply a threat to his teammates’ health on a daily basis.
“I remember going half-speed in practice and I saw myself kind of doing it in games, too,” he admitted. “That’s why there was such a drop-off from my junior season (68 tackles, 14 for loss, 10 sacks) to my senior season (71 tackles, five sacks). I was so used to laying off. I’m not really the type of person who likes hurting people. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still a brawler. Don’t think he’s a big gentle giant. But I don’t like giving people injuries. When I was back at home, since everyone was so much smaller than me, me [inflicting] my power and will on people like that, I kind of felt like I was going to hurt them. That’s the reason I kind of laid off in practice. Now I just don’t worry about that anymore. Everyone’s my size and everyone’s been working out just as hard.
“I remember one time him and Chris Watt double-teamed me, and Watt landed on top of me. He landed on top of my ankle and I sprained it. You’ve got to step it up; you can’t be playing all passive. Just go. Go fast, go hard and just go all out.”