For Jones, Syracuse hits (too) close to home

Jarron Jones discusses living a healthy distance from home, mentoring freshmen, and the ongoing pursuit of a cooler looking face mask...

A prevailing opinion of Notre Dame recruiting fans is as follows: Get the prospect on campus with his mom and/or dad, and he's as good as Irish.

For junior nose tackle Jarron Jones, it was the inability of his mother to always be on campus that sealed his migration 515 miles west to South Bend rather than 87 east to Syracuse.

"They were a great staff, just close to home, that's something I contemplated," said Jones, the Rochester, NY native of his recruitment by the Orange. "But the one thing that made me not go there was that my mom could just come up any time she wanted. So therefore, I chose to go to Notre Dame."

Realizing the potential disparagement of the two most important entities in his present life (mother and good-standing at his university), Jones backtracked a tad. At least regarding one of them.

"Well, obviously that was just one big factor. I just didn't want her popping up whenever she wanted if she heard something bad about me."

The drive was approximately 90 minutes from Jones' home to Syracuse's campus. Too close for comfort. Now Jones sees his mom, Lakiescha, "every two months or so" though more during a college football season.

"She tries to make as many home games as she can while scheduling between my little brother's schedule as well," he said of Jamir Jones, a junior quarterback/wide receiver at Aquinas-Institute in Rochester.

When Lakiescha visits South Bend in the fall these days she sees her son starting in the middle of a resurgent Irish defense. Remarkable in that last season at this time, that same six-foot-five, 315-pound four-star prospect was saddled with scout team duties -- a potential death knell for a sophomore that began the 2013 season in the line's varsity rotation.

It was a life experience he uses today to influence others, namely freshmen defensive linemen that appear destined for redshirt rookie seasons.

"I just tell them to give the O-Line the best look possible," said Jones. "Get better, because you never know. Every year, somebody on the D-Line goes down. Stuff happens. We may need a person to come up from the scout team and get on defense and they'll have to go in the next week.

"It's a struggle (for a scout teamer in practice), because going against the (first string) O-Line, they go hard every play."

It was a struggle for Jones to go hard as recently as August. Defensive line coach Mike Elston facetiously (it is to be hoped) offered that Jones' work volume as of Notre Dame's media day (August 19) was "16 snaps."

Jones though played twice that number in the season-opener against Rice and has since upped it to three times that stated total entering the end of September.

"I played about 30 (against Rice) and Purdue a lot more," he said. "I played 45, I want to say. I'm trying to work toward 50 because if I get to 51, Coach (Brian) Kelly said I can get a visor. So there's an incentive to try to get it up there. But it's kind of hard, because I'm not the (starter) on the sub and speed packages, so it's tough, because I go in for two plays, and its third down and I come out."

Visor or not, Jones has already given the Irish more than most pundits expected of him when first thrust into action last November against Brigham Young. He admitted after the fact he wasn't mentally ready -- and not sure if he wanted to play -- but put forth a standout individual effort nonetheless, recording a blocked field goal and a career-best seven tackles (five for gains of two yards or less).

No longer in doubt of his place on the football field, Jones' continued ascent this fall will be based largely on his ability to practice what he preaches to the younger charges: go hard on every snap -- in every situation.

"Coming to practice, being consistent, trying to increase my work volume," he said of his continued efforts. "It was a challenge at first. Just practicing good habits, running to the ball when it's thrown out of the pocket, that helps increase my work volume so I can play more in a game."

And maybe secure that elusive visor he so covets.


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