The Blue-Gold Game was actually worth watching for Jarron Jones.
Unlike the rest of Notre Dame’s roster, playing inside the stadium actually held novelty for the defensive tackle who would graduate a month later with his final season already gearing up.
Jones used spring practice as the first chapter in a comeback story. Now he needs to write the rest of that book to play himself into an NFL Draft pick. Because there’s still a lot of work for Jones to get done.
“I would say that Jarron is still playing a bit tentative,” said Brian Kelly late during spring ball. “I think he understands that he’s got to play with more confidence, and I’m confident that he will when the lights are on.
“But having said that, he’s going to be challenged. There are a lot of good players in there, and he’s going to have to really bear down and make that concerted effort to really challenge himself, because we know he’s got some really unique qualities, his size, his ability to push the pocket, those things are still there.”
That Jones doesn’t have the ringing endorsement of Kelly entering summer conditioning isn’t a shock. But it’s not something to overlook either. Jones has the potential to make a major move, yet there’s enough uncertainty that just assuming he will doesn’t make much sense.
Jarron Jones is next in Irish Illustrated A-to-Z series.
Jones treats this season like it should be treated, playing his fifth-year like the contract audition that it is. Notre Dame gets more of the Florida State Jones than the one who made one tackle in games against Stanford and Arizona State that same season. For Jones to really make this leap, going from good to great, he needs to commit to the off-season more than past years. That means bowing down at the altar of Longo and taking his nutrition seriously. If Jones wants to play football for a living, he needs to live football this fall. And if that happens, Notre Dame could have an outstanding combination on the defensive line in Jones and Isaac Rochell to stop the run. Jones might even be an effective pass rusher in most games simply by overwhelming the opposition with size. The best-case scenario for Jones is something special because if he commits to the off-season and stays healthy he’s an NFL talent.
The question with Jones isn’t talent. He’s a 6-foot-6, 315-pound dancing bear of a defensive tackle, unnaturally light on his feet for an athlete with that kind of mass. The question is whether Jones has missed so much off-season training that he’ll enter next season off the pace that Notre Dame needs. Those foot and knee injuries meant that Jones missed almost an entire year of football, which limited his weight room work. In theory, this off-season should be Jones’ best after surviving his final spring practice healthy, but it’s hard to deny the fact he needed to play catch up in the weight room after last season. Maybe now he is caught up. But with Sheldon Day gone, Notre Dame needs Jones to get ahead. The worst-case here would be just fine most years, but the Irish can’t afford an average year from Jones.
Part Louis Nix and part Sheldon Day, the career of Jarron Jones has followed the paths of both players who preceded him. Like Jones, Nix took a red-shirt and battled consistency and maturity issues throughout before playing himself into an NFL talent. Like Jones, Day also had to fight to stay healthy, hit by knee and ankle injuries that dogged him until his final season. Jones underwent lisfranc surgery late in his junior year and had his senior season wiped out by that MCL tear in training camp. After seeing Nix go in the third round and Day go in the fourth, it’s easy to imagine these career comparisons holding next spring too if Jones keeps it together this fall.
Development Vs. Recruiting Ranking
Opinions on Jones were mixed coming out of the Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y., although everybody thought he was an interesting prospect. Scout, ESPN and 247 all ranked Jones at offensive tackle, with only Rivals tagging him at his ultimate college position of defensive tackle. Overall, ESPN went highest on Jones at No. 102 while Scout was lowest at No. 229. Early in the process, 247 actually had Jones ranked as a five-star prospect before slowly moving him downward. The U.S. Army All-American’s career has been fit for a solid four-star athlete, starting two-plus years and showing a real NFL capability when engaged. Considering every service had Jones outside the Top 100 but inside the No 250, this feels like a hit in terms of rankings.
Jones At His Best
Jones was one of the best players on the field in Notre Dame’s loss at Florida State two years ago, and that included Jameis Winston and Jalen Ramsey. Jones dominated the interior of the Seminoles offensive line, finishing with six tackles and a career-high three tackles for loss. If Jones can deliver this kind of performance every weekend he’ll be a early round NFL Draft pick next spring.
Quote To Note
“You just felt like, if I played, what kind of defensive unit would we have had if I played, if we had everybody, what kind of team would we have been,” Jones said. “That’s always going to be the what if, we’re going to have to live with that for the rest of our lives.” – Jarron Jones during Fiesta Bowl prep last December