Penn State's Jones in better shape after tackling diet

ASSOCIATED PRESS Penn State's DaQuan Jones sacks Syracuse's Drew Allen in last week's season-opener.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Penn State's DaQuan Jones sacks Syracuse's Drew Allen in last week's season-opener.
Posted: September 06, 2013

STATE COLLEGE - Barely a mile from Penn State's football building there's an eatery with a neon sign and fleet of delivery cars that beckons college students to enjoy its sauce-glazed, deep-fried specialties.

The sign read "Wings Over Happy Valley" and the establishment has become a hit among students as a convenient, yet unhealthy way to fill their stomachs. But in the last year, it has lost one of its biggest customers - literally.

Standing 6-3, DaQuan Jones anchors Penn State's defensive line at tackle, and this season he is doing so in a sleeker frame. Jones dieted in the offseason, which meant more fish, fruits and vegetables and fewer sweets.

When asked what else he cut from his diet, the senior said with a smirk, "I don't know if you've ever heard of 'Wings Over?' "

Jones said he ended last season playing at 327 pounds, but that number reached 335 before he started dieting. The eating restrictions worked, and Jones said he is entering his final collegiate campaign at 315 pounds.

It has paid distinct dividends as Jones made a team-high nine tackles - including three for a loss and one punishing sack - in Penn State's season-opening victory against Syracuse last week. He will attempt to better that performance tomorrow when the Nittany Lions host Eastern Michigan at noon.

"Against Syracuse I felt a little quicker and light," Jones said. "I didn't get tired as fast. I went more plays than I did last year. I just really feel comfortable and quicker."

Jones has appeared in every game for the last two seasons. Last season, he recorded 22 tackles, two for loss, and half a sack.

Both head coach Bill O'Brien and defensive-line coach Larry Johnson thought Jones would be more effective at a lower weight, and encouraged the diet.

"We felt like if he lost weight he would be quicker, more explosive because he could lose weight and gain strength and he did it," O'Brien said. "He went out and did it. I feel like both myself and Larry, especially Larry, did a nice job with him in practice of limiting his reps, getting him good, quality reps."

Jones said the effects of the diet were not there initially, but by the time Penn State started spring practice, he was down to 320 pounds, which made it easier to continue. "When you see results, you want to keep going," he said.

Last season, Jones flew under the radar a bit as Jordan Hill garnered the most attention at the center of Penn State's defensive line. Hill, a tackle, was a third-round selection by the Seattle Seahawks in April's NFL Draft. Without him this season, more responsibility has fallen on Jones' shoulders.

One of the most seasoned members of the Lions' roster, Jones - who grew up outside of Binghamton, N.Y. - has received praise from many of his defensive comrades as a player who helps guide the linemen in the proper direction.

He acknowledged that Hill and other members of the line deserved all the credit they got last season, but said he wants to stand out.

"I want people to know who I am," Jones said. "I don't want to want to get in anyone's shadows, I am respectful of them. But at the same time, I have a game that I can bring to the table."

Jones has received some recognition nationally. He was named to the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) watch list earlier in the summer, and NFL.com ranked him as the top senior defensive tackle in the country.

He wants to take his game to the highest level, which he said was a big motivator when he began his diet. He has 11 games left to make his mark, and scouts will be watching.

A larger spotlight is on a thinner player.

"Going into my last year, I wanted to make a difference and support my family after school," Jones said. "So I'm thinking about my family, knowing it's my time to shine."

On Twitter: @SPianovich

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