Spring Q&A: Daronte Jones

With an experience starting group, secondary coach Daronte Jones spent the spring coaching up the athletic Tanner McEvoy and building depth across the board throughout his unit on Wisconsin's defense.

BadgerNation: Talk about the work Sojourn Shelton has done this spring. It appears like he had a really good camp.

Daronte Jones: He’s playing with some confidence. He’s playing within his personality, which is good, and that gives him some flexibility to know when to jump some balls and when not to. It’s better to do it now in a practice than in a game to know what you can and can’t do. We encourage him to play aggressive.

BN: Tanner McEvoy said he’s learned more technique this year and that’s been helping him in the secondary. What have you seen from him?

DJ: The biggest thing with Tanner that I have been impressed with his ability to embrace so much crossover with the offense and defense. It’s not like he’s saying hey, I’m on offense so defense is on the back burner or vice versa. He’s taken both sides seriously and you can appreciate that. There’s a lot on that young man’s plate, but I like that he’s taken more of a role to be a quarterback out there, instead of being just a true middle-of-the-field player. He’s trying to get involved in the run game, reading his keys and communicating, so he’s becoming a complete safety more than just a package safety in the pass. I am really pleased with him.

BN: What do you think are the biggest challenges with McEvoy playing both?

DJ: It’ll be the mental side of it, knowing what to do on the offensive side and knowing what to do on the defensive side. The challenge for him is to get caught up on whatever he may miss. When he’s in the defensive meetings, I am sure he’s going to reach out to Coach Gilmore to find out what he missed offensively and the vice versa. He’s good at coming up to the office and watching film.

There’s going to be times in practice when he’s working strictly with receivers where he’s going to miss things we’re working on as a defense, but I like the fact he comes up to me to find out what he missed. Because of the tempo of practice you have to coach them up on the run, so we might get a call where he’s got to look at me for clarification. The biggest challenge for him is to become a student of the game on offense and defense. It’s nice to see that progression and knowing he’s maturing and knowing the task at hand.

BN: Have you coached many guys in college who were successful at being two-way players?

DJ: Mike Edwards at Hawaii was a guy who was a cornerback and a kick returner. As the year went on we needed some explosion and some plays needed to be made, so they developed a package for him offensively. Because of that, it was kind of the same thing where we’d borrow Mike for a series. It is whatever is best for the team. As a coach you’ve got to be flexible because you don’t want to put the player at a disadvantage. Whatever makes the team better I’m all for it.

BN: Where’s your depth at cornerback after Shelton and Darius Hillary? Have you seen some players emerge who can help the unit in certain situations?

DJ: I would like to see more. It’s kind of an inconsistent depth to be honest with you. You’d like for someone to take it and keep it. On the flip side you see someone have a great day and think they are going to take it and next thing you know you see a guy who comes in and competes and passes that guy up. You are seeing some competition there, which is good, but more consistency is what you would like.

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