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July 5, 2009 at 2:32 PM

A few words with Darrion Jones

I was able to talk recently with UW defensive end Darrion Jones, who as a senior has the potential to emerge as a team leader this year, especially after a standout spring when he retained his starting job while also earning kudos from coaches as one of the most improved players.
Jones was a member of Tyrone Willingham’s first recruiting class in 2005 — Jones is one of just five members left from that class, the only fifth-year seniors on the team.
You wouldn’t expect Jones to say anything else, but he insists that this offseason has a different feel than all of those that have come before, with players more serious about what they are doing during the summer and showing more commitment to football..
“Everybody is here, nobody went home,” Jones said. “Between the break after finals, nobody went home — everybody stayed here and is committed to what we have to get done, dedicated to what we have to get done. Everyone knows the sense of urgency around here — that’s why everyone stayed and is committed to doing the best we can.
“Years past, even I went home (during the period between finals and summer school). This year, it’s completely different. Everyone stayed. Nobody wants to go home. Some guys might want to go home, but they understand this is more important. It’s hard, but you have to sacrifice some things to be great. Everybody understands that and that’s why everybody stayed.”
The summer for the players consists of organized lifting and conditioning sessions that can be overseen by the team’s strength coaches, and then voluntary no-pads, practice-type workouts in the afternoons. While the skill players work in what are commonly called seven-on-seven drills (meaning QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs against the back seven of the defense), the linemen do their own drills going against each other. (The coaches cannot have contact with the players during those drills).
“We’re used to it now; everyone is back in the swing of things coming out of spring ball and then to May, where we just lifted hard and conditioned hard,” Jones said.
Jones said the biggest difference in the workouts is their “high intensity” compared to previous years.
Jones said he is up to about 260 pounds, which is where he said he wants to stay.
He emerged as a starter at the end of spring at the DE spot he held last year opposite Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, a position where Everrette Thompson, who battled injuries much of the spring, also plays. Thompson suffered a broken bone in his foot during the spring. If healthy, he figures to put up a stiff battle for the job during fall camp. But UW coaches said Jones also earned his starting nod with improved play.
“I just tried to do the best I could every day and improve on everything,” Jones said. “If I made a mistake in practice, I tried to go out the next day and say, ‘OK, let’s play mistake free today.’ I’m happy they thought that of me (that he was one of the most improved players), but every day I want to try to be the best I could be. I didn’t worry about what they said the day before, the day before that, I just worried about being a new person every day, being the best I could be. That’s what I tried to do in the spring, and it worked.”
Jones said the experience of last season — when he got his first regular playing time — also paid off.
“Just having a real year to play every game and get to know what it takes to be a starter and having that responsibility, that was a big help,” he said. “It helped to go into this spring to understand what it was to be in the number one spot, that you have to perform every day. Because these coaches, they let it be known that you may not start every time; that what you do on the field, you may jump or drop on the depth chart depending on what you do. Having that mind-set that I want to improve on last year really helped me out.”
The front seven stands as one of the bigger causes for optimism of an improved season for the Huskies. Jones and Te’o-Nesheim are returning starters at DE and Thompson a young and emerging talent; DTs Cameron Elisara and Alameda Ta’amu have a year of experince now; and UW has four linebackers back with extensive starting experience.
“Obviously we now all have a year of playing together or playing in the games,” Jones said. “We all have a lot of game experience now, so we should be more seasoned now, we all should know what to expect now, there shouldn’t be that deer-in-the-headlights look.
“You look at our linebackers, they have a lot of experience, and our secondary, they know what to expect now. I think this defense has a real big upside. I think the defense is going to be great this year.”
Jones, however, knows that’s not what the pundits think, with UW a consensus pick to finish ninth in the Pac-10 in the preseason magazines after last year’s 0-12 finish.
“We don’t pay attention to any of that,” he said. “We know we had a bad year last year. But we’re trying to separate ourselves from that and just know what we have to do now. We don’t care about anyone’s perceptions of ‘they are not this or that.’ We’re just worried about what we have to do now.”

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