Jones weighing in on Penn State's defensive line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State defensive tackle DaQuan Jones was all over the field Saturday. He had one of those games in which he seemed to be in the picture on every defensive play.

Officially, Jones finished with a team-high nine tackles, three for loss, and a sack, the latter of which appeared mind-numbingly painful for Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen (consider the weight difference: Jones, 315 and Allen, 235).

Truthfully, it could've been a lot worse for Allen. Jones used to be significantly heavier, but so heavy that he might not have been able to make that kind of an athletic play or have the standout game that he had. Jones' problem paralleled one shared by undergrads at colleges everywhere. Too often he indulged in sweets and made a few too many trips to Wings Over Happy Valley.

For a good three years Jones did this, and he watched his weight climb to 327 at the end of last season and up to 335 last winter. He had started nearly every game of the 2012 football season, but this lifestyle was not conducive to maximum productivity. Jones realized this, as did his coaches.

"We felt like if he lost weight he would be quicker and more explosive," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "Because he could lose weight and still gain strength. And he did it. He went out and did it."

The diet involved motivation from O'Brien and line coach Larry Johnson, as well as an eating regimen from Penn State's director of sports nutrition, Kristine Clark. Gone were the sweets and wings; they were replaced by the foods Jones once avoided, such as vegetables and fish.

Nothing came together quickly. By February, Jones said he started to finally feel results. By spring practice his weight had dropped to about 320 pounds. Since then, he said, he has been in the 315 range, aware that with his body type all of his progress could be erased if he doesn't continue his devotion to his diet.

"Everything is a struggle for me," he said.

What helps is that Jones has been getting noticed for his improvement. Over the summer, NFL analyst Gil Brandt listed him as the No. 1 senior defensive tackle prospect in the country.

On Tuesday, he was asked how he would prepare for the inevitable double teams he'll face after such a productive start to the season. Saying he feels faster and better than he ever has, Jones believes he's ready.

"More power to them," he said. "I hope they do it."

NOTES -- Tight end Matt Lehman, who appeared to hurt his knee running a pass route against Syracuse on Saturday, will be out for the entire season, O'Brien said. Lehman had 24 receptions for 296 yards last year. Fellow tight end Kyle Carter and linebacker Mike Hull are listed as day to day with injuries. Their status is unknown for Saturday's Eastern Michigan game. ... O'Brien said quarterback Christian Hackenberg will continue to be his starter but said that Tyler Ferguson has to be ready to play. ... Remember that fourth-down play at the beginning of the Syracuse game when O'Brien elected to go for it with the ball on the Penn State 35? "I'll disclose a little bit there. The first time we went for it on fourth down, I thought it was first down. I thought we got the first down on the previous play so I didn't even know it was fourth down. It was like Belushi in 'Animal House.' When you're on a roll just let it go."

psusports

Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.


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