The No. 8 player on this list is at a position that doesn’t necessarily get considered for playmaker status. This redshirt sophomore should be able to change those beliefs this year, however.
8. Dre’Mont Jones, rSoph Defensive Tackle
Dre’Mont Jones came to Ohio State as a big defensive end with a knee injury. This allowed the staff a full season to get him healthy and figure out exactly where to play him. Jones arrived at Ohio State a little heavy due to his knee injury, which occurred during his senior season of high school basketball. Because of this, he had to first take bad weight off — getting down to around 260 pounds — and then put good weight on.
As a redshirt freshman last season, he began the year as Tracy Sprinkle’s backup. He was always going to be in the rotation, but there was a clear pecking order. That order went out the window when Sprinkle went down with a season-ending knee injury. Jones stepped in and the Buckeyes really never missed a beat. It took Jones a couple of games to get comfortable, but once Big Ten play hit, he was arguably the most active defensive tackle in the conference.
Don’t believe it? In October games last year, Raekwon McMillan had 31 tackles and Jones had 30. In B1G play, Jones had 44 tackles and Chris Worley and Damon Webb each had 42. Jones also had more tackles in B1G play than Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Jabrill Peppers, who finished with 43 tackles in conference play.
And the most amazing part about those numbers — Jones rotated with other defensive tackles and came off the field on passing downs. Peppers, meanwhile, didn’t rotate and he played all three downs. Jones did not play wildcat quarterback or return punts, however.
What He Does Well
Dre’Mont Jones doesn’t stay blocked for long and he’ll continue to pursue a play even after it goes past him. He is not necessarily the stout run defender that you might expect. Jones didn’t get into the backfield much, but his tackles are right near the line of scrimmage. He isn’t a pile-jumping linebacker. Instead, he’s usually the first shovel in the ground.
Jones is listed at 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, but he said this past spring that he was around 280. As his coaches say, he is basically a defensive end playing defensive tackle — not unlike Adolphus Washington as a sophomore when Joey Bosa moved him inside.
Jones is said to be a very good pass rusher, but he didn’t get to show it much last season. He is exactly the kind of player Larry Johnson wants at the three tech position because he is athletic and can get into the backfield. He gets single blocks and is able to free himself from those engagements.
Dre’Mont Jones in 2017
The expectation is to see a different — but better — version of Dre’Mont Jones running around for the Ohio State football team. For one, he is actually going to be permitted to play on passing downs. Urban Meyer and Larry Johnson want to find a way to get him on the field as part of the Rushmen package.
Talking to Nick Bosa this spring, he almost had guilt in his voice for forcing Jones to the sidelines on passing downs last season. Now with Bosa mostly staying outside, his conscience is clear.
Meyer has talked about wanting five defensive linemen on the field at the same time this season, which would somehow feature Sam Hubbard in a hybrid stand-up role. It probably won’t happen much, but Meyer has told his defensive staff to get creative. With players like Jones needing to get on the field, it’s easy to understand why the need for such creativity.
Jones only had four tackles for loss last season. He should double that number this season, and with more pass rush opportunities, expect a couple of forced fumbles in there as well. Jones is simply too active on the line of scrimmage not to make a good number of plays this season for the Buckeyes.
What They Are Saying
“Maturity and growing. He’s really growing a lot. He’s locked in. He’s done a great job academically. He’s a really smart football player. His football IQ is really high. Now he just has to continue to grow.” — Larry Johnson
“He’s close to Tamba Hali. Tamba Hali was like that. He would run all day long. Dre’Mont can run like a running back. He can really run. Really smooth, transitional player. He’s in great shape. Dre’Mont is one of those guys who is in shape all the time. I think that makes a difference, he can go get the football.” — Larry Johnson
“First year playing football at three technique, great job, great acceleration. Now we’ve got to improve his pass-rush abilities. Our three techs, they get a lot of single blocks, so that guy has to be the guy inside to make our outside guys go. So it’s something we talked about and it’s something that we’re working to improve. So far, so good.” — Larry Johnson
“Dre’Mont is a high-motor guy so he does a lot of things for us. He moves around a lot. He’s all over the place. I don’t think anyone can out-run him. It’s like he doesn’t get tired so he’s all over the place. It’s hard not to love him out on the field.” — Tyquan Lewis
“I think Dre’Mont Jones has gone from a good player to a very good player and bordering on a great player.” — Urban Meyer