CHICAGO – Ohio State lost a plethora of talent to the NFL draft in late April when the likes of Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes were all selected by NFL teams to take their game to the professional ranks.
Dre'Mont Jones could have easily added his name to that list, but instead chose to return to Columbus for the 2018 season, a campaign that figures to feature Jones in a more prominent role.
In previous seasons, Jones was often replaced on third down in favor of a third defensive end in Ohio State's "Rushmen" package. With a trio of veterans gone to the NFL, Jones is now expected to stay on the field in third down situations, something Urban Meyer said Tuesday he is excited about.
"He would come out last year on third downs and I am sure he is not coming out now," Meyer said at Big Ten Media Day. "You see him walking around here, it is as good as he has ever looked. He is a grown man."
Last year, Jones tallied just 20 total tackles, missing two games due to a serious gash suffered from a locker room incident midseason. He recorded just one sack in limited opportunities, a number that figures to change this season, assuming he gets those extended reps on passing downs.
“You see him walking around here, it is as good as he has ever looked. He is a grown man.”– Urban Meyer on Dre'Mont Jones
Improving his game in an overall sense was one of the main reasons the Cleveland native returned to school, but also, his decision was influenced by his desire to earn his degree before moving on to the NFL. A member of the 2015 class, Jones is entering his fourth season, putting him on the traditional path to graduate.
Jones said Tuesday that he believes he has more room to grow both on and off the field, despite being projected as a high-round draft pick after the 2017 campaign.
"Football-wise, I wanted to hone into my skills," Jones said of his decision to return to school. "I feel like I have much more to grow as a person and as an athlete.
"I am very excited. Who doesn't want to be on the field? That is my hunger. This is what I want to do."
With Ohio State's training camp set to begin Aug. 3, Jones is set to be reunited with a defensive line that still figures to be one of the best in the country, despite losing four regular contributors. Jones will likely join Nick Bosa, Robert Landers and Chase Young along the Buckeyes' defensive front, a line that could feature as many as three future first-round draft picks.
The NFL and the money he could have already made don't seem to be on Jones' mind. Meyer said the minute Jones reported back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in the spring, it was easy to tell that Jones was locked in and ready to help the Buckeyes reach their goals for the 2018 season.
"Dre'Mont made the decision to come back and I am so impressed. A lot of times, guys come back and maybe they have buyer's remorse. There never was (with Jones)," Meyer said. "He has hit it full stride. From what I saw in spring practice, it is hard to say he isn't one of the top one or two players on our team."
As for what Jones thinks the goals are for the 2018 team?
"Our goal is Big Ten (championship), bowl game, national championship. If you're known for being No. 1 and being on top, you want to keep that. You want to knock the people down that are trying to chase you," Jones said of Ohio State's place in the Big Ten East. "This is our side of the Big Ten."