Player Spotlight: DaQuan Jones
After Penn State’s win in the opener over Syracuse, Christian Hackenberg, Allen Robinson and the offense received much of the attention. However, it was the defense that also produced many unsung heroes. There were multiple big stops late in the game that kept the Nittany Lions on top. The defensive line charged the offense, and was led by senior tackle DaQuan Jones, who recorded a career high nine tackles, eight of which were solo. Jones also recorded a sack, when he split a double team, and brought down Drew Allen. His game-changing performance and leadership was imperative to the defense and team’s win.
Coach Bill O’Brien was very pleased with Jones’ performance.
“We use the phrase ‘Next Level’ when we talk about football, and this is a prime example of a guy that did it.”
For Jones, the road to the next level did not come without hard work and his fair share of adversity. One big change from last year is that fellow standout d-tackle, Jordan Hill, has moved on to the NFL, therefore, it is up to Jones to become a reliable force at the position. Jones realized changes needed to be made both on and off the field in the summer and lost weight to improve his game. It may not be completely apparent in uniform, the difference was noticeable on Saturday.
“I felt quicker,” Jones exclaimed. “I feel like I have a grasp now, I’m just calm and relaxed going into my senior year.”
Jones had a diet plan in place that helped him lose around 10 pounds from the end of last season. He talked about the importance of making drastic changes in order to support his family after school. As for what caused the need to lose weight, Jones blamed it on one of the most popular foods on campus.
“Y’all ever heard of Wings Over?” Jones joked.
The offseason training plan shows the dedication Jones had in making his final season his best. The 6 foot 5 inch, 318-pound tackle was first a Johnson City Senior High School standout, where he was captain of both football and basketball, before coming to Happy Valley. His freshman year he was held out for the first four games for a possible redshirt season, but his play in practice and potential allowed him to see playing time at defensive tackle as well as defensive end for one game. He made six total tackles, two of them for a loss, including one sack.
The following year Jones became a top reserve for the Nittany Lion defense. He was able to play in every game, recording a season total of eight tackles, four of them solo.
Earning a starting spot in the 2012 training camp, Jones played an instrumental role in the defense that ranked second in the Big Ten. He took the opportunity and ran with it by starting eleven games recording twenty-two tackles along with a key fumble recovery inside Iowa’s red zone.
As seen in week one, Jones will be counted on heavily in 2013 to create havoc in the opponent’s backfield. He will have many opportunities to make plays, as opponents’ offensive lines will have to worry about others on the line such as the dangerous Deion Barnes. The start to the season that this unit had was outstanding, but the question now becomes how they carry the momentum into the coming weeks.
With the experience that Jones possesses, he knows it is crucial to keep the foot on the gas and keep this ball rolling, and will look to keep on leading the line moving forward.
“We’re all ready to go out there and play,” said Jones. “Everyone was focused on what they had to do last week and we just have to carry it over into the next game.”
If this defensive line can build more and more confidence as the season goes on, it will give this team a unique dynamic that opponents will have trouble controlling. DaQuan Jones will be looked upon for leadership and solid play, and with that, scouts at the “Next Level” could look to him to play on Sundays.
Tim Behan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.