COLUMBUS, Ohio — Getting any NFL-ready player to commit to another season of college football is significant, but no decision to stay for another year could wind up being more important to Ohio State than the one made by defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones.
From his wrecking-ball ability on the interior to his veteran presence in the locker room — and the fact that the Buckeyes are losing so much production on the defensive line — the announcement from Jones on Thursday no doubt set off a huge celebration and sigh of relief at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. After it looked like the safest bet was on Jones adding his name to the list of early entrants to the draft, the value of having him back for another season is impossible to overstate.
Jones is, quite simply, a game-changing force. And if that has been somewhat overshadowed previously thanks to all the talented defensive ends playing around him, count on that changing next season after another year of development and more time for position coach Larry Johnson to find ways to unleash him.
Maybe this seems like too much hyperbole for a player coming off a season with just 20 total tackles, 5 of them for loss, with a blocked kick and sack thrown in as well. But it’s important to remember that individual statistics have been deflated by Ohio State’s depth and the rotation the Rushmen use to keep everybody fresh. Jones also missed a couple games thanks to a nasty gash on his leg from an accident in the locker room. So the numbers don’t really do justice to the work he did collapsing the pocket and making life miserable for offensive linemen who struggle to deal with a 6-foot-3, 295-pound nimble athlete.
It certainly didn’t go unappreciated by the rest of the unit, which recognized how crucial he was to Ohio State’s success and how much more dangerous he could become. Nick Bosa was practically begging for Jones to return alongside him next season in the buildup to the Cotton Bowl. And in doing so, Jones will make the transition much smoother for a group that must replace Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Tracy Sprinkle this offseason.
“He hasn’t been able to showcase his pass rush yet,” Bosa said. “And when he does, the nation is going to be, like, ‘All right, we’re taking him.’ ”
The chance to boost his stock with another year of development certainly was a factor in the decision-making process for Jones, but he would have been a coveted commodity by NFL teams even if he left school early.
Putting that move on hold for the potential of a more prominent role for the Buckeyes next season and a shot at the national championship is huge for the program. And it could go down as Ohio State’s most important roster move of the offseason.