Jarron Jones has been heard more than he’s been seen during the past seven months.
Sidelined since the end of last season following foot surgery, Jones has still made a point of video bombing player interviews. That included calling out Cody Riggs for still loving Florida and kissing Isaac Rochell during press conferences. So while Jones clearly hasn’t lost his personality after taking a medical leave of absence, the question is how much of his physical skills he’s kept in tact.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z series continues with the senior defensive tackle, who has the potential for a dominant season if he can be Notre Dame’s hardest worker this summer.
Jones opens training camp in peak condition after attacking summer conditioning, avoiding the trap of success that ensnared Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix after their breakout seasons. The performance at Florida State becomes a regular occurrence, giving the Irish an NFL nose tackle to stick next to a healthy Sheldon Day. Tackle totals won’t measure Jones’ effectiveness, although he puts up 10+ tackles for loss and five sacks. While the best case might be Jones actually returning for a fifth-year, this season is enough to warrant a smart draft jump. That’s going to require physical and mental maturation.
The Lisfranc foot injury doesn’t come all the way back in time for Jones to put in a serious off-season of conditioning, leaving him out of shape for what could be a contract year. Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore set expectations low during spring practice when he noted Jones can’t put his full weight on his recovering foot yet. Notre Dame doesn’t have an adequate replacement with man strength for nose guard, with Jerry Tillery and Daniel Cage the next men in. College Football Playoff defenses don’t rely on freshmen at defensive tackle. Jones sees his workload drop off early in the season while playing his way back into shape.
Conditioning concerns. An oversized personality. A red-shirt season. Sophomore flashes. The light comes on as a junior. Jones has had an eerily similar career to Louis Nix to date. Jones is also on track to match Nix’s career productivity. He’s made 60 tackles through two seasons while Nix had 63. While Nix had the bigger impact through two seasons based solely on the 2012 BCS National Championship Game defense, Jones has had his own dominant moments.
Scout and ESPN both ranked Jones as a four-star prospect out of the Aquinas Institute, but both tagged him as an offensive tackle. Scout had Jones at No. 229 overall, the lowest of the four recruiting services. ESPN slotted Jones the highest at No. 102 overall. The 247 Sports network actually had Jones as a five-star prospect early in the process and rated No. 23 overall before dropping him. Rivals had Jones at No. 199 overall. Overall, everybody has been semi-right on Jones in ranking if not position. Whether he’s a high four-star or a low four-star has varied by the week.
If Jones could replicate his Florida State performance every weekend, he could grow into a first round pick. He smoked the Seminoles last October with three tackles for loss, putting Jameis Winston under regular pressure. That’s the bar for Jones moving forward. Achieve it regularly and this will be his final season in South Bend.
“TJ Jones?” – Chris Watt after Jarron Jones posted seven tackles against BYU in 2013 when called into emergency action. After that game Watt was asked if he thought Jones had that kind of performance in him after being on the scout team a month prior. Watt said when he saw on the scoreboard flash “Tackles: Jones – 7” that his first reaction was wondering how a receiver could have seven tackles.