So while Penn State is putting together what has the potential to be one of its more impressive recruiting classes of recent memory, an area where it never hurts to add depth is in the defensive front four.
One player the Nittany Lions have been keeping tabs on to help add such depth is four-star defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. Jones, from Johnson City, N.Y., finished his junior season with more than 60 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.
He already has the size (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) to attract offers from all over the Northeast. He has mentioned Boston College, Maryland and Syracuse as schools he is considering, with visits to Illinois, Rutgers and Pittsburgh planned for the summer.
I would like to get out there and look at my options, Jones said. The biggest factors for me are to go to a place that is closer to home, with a winning tradition and good academics. It will just be a matter of finding out where I feel most comfortable.
Jones confirmed that he was offered by Penn State last Tuesday (June 2) and cannot help but be intrigued by the chance to play for a position coach with a track record like that of Larry Johnson. Johnson had a hand in all of the abovementioned Penn State defenders and after turning down a job offer from Illinois this year, showed he is committed to continuing to turn out top end defensive linemen for the Nittany Lions.
With everything that he has done for the program, the players he has gotten to the next level, it would be a great opportunity to be coached by him, Jones said of Johnson. Having spoken to him on the phone, I can tell that he is a great person and it would be an honor to play for him one day.
Jones plans to visit Happy Valley on June 27-28. He has already made a few trips to Penn State with his father and high school coach and has come away impressed with the entire coaching staff. All of the coaches that I've met at Penn State are great guys, he said. They were very honest in what they expected of me and I knew they were serious about academics because they didn't offer me until they saw my SAT scores.
In addition to football, Jones spends his off-seasons playing for Johnson City's basketball team. He initially started playing for the benefit of conditioning, but says that basketball has helped him become a better football player.
I got into basketball to help me stay in shape for football, but I really started to like it, so I kept playing, he said. It is a lot of fun to compete and it has helped me a lot with my lateral quickness and having quick feet.
While basketball has helped him develop his football techniques, Jones still feels he has a lot to work on in his senior campaign.
I need to get better at tracking down plays from the backside, he said. Last year, if I read a play that was away from me, I would jog. I can do a lot better at that. I can also always get better using my hands, improving my swims and rips, getting a push off of the offensive lineman, all of those will be things that I work very hard on this summer and next season.
Another priority for his senior season is to help his team make a deeper run into the playoffs, after losing to Corning West in the first round last year.
This year my coaches have asked me to do everything I can to dominate and help our team be as good as we can be, he said. We feel we have a very solid team coming back and we want to get back to the playoffs and win it all. So my biggest goal for the season is to have a lot of fun playing with my friends and hope for a great year.