Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 11/24/12

Last week I was lucky enough to interview one of the best defensive ends in the Pac-12, UCLA’s Datone Jones. The Bruin isn’t necessarily a household name, but he continues to produce and grab attention of more scouts each week. The impressive end remains one of the best-kept secrets in this upcoming draft. Clearly I’m not the only one to think so. Sports Illustrated Tony Pauline says NFL Scouts have “raved” about the performance by UCLA senior DE Datone Jones this season. (Rotoworld) Pauline noted, “…Teams love his size, speed and upside. They are infatuated with the flashes of brilliance he’s shown at times this season.” Last season Jones led the Bruins in tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (three), and this year the DE has only improved in Jim Mora’s 3-4 scheme, as he has been instrumental for the UCLA defense with his certain knack for disrupting the backfield. Heading into the Stanford game, Jones currently ranks second on the team with 13.5 tackles for loss including four sacks.  On top of that he has 45 total tackles (33 solo) with one forced fumble, two kicks/punts blocked, and one receiving touchdown.  Earlier this season his efforts got him onto the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List- award given to the Defensive Player of the Year. The senior is a very versatile end, proving he can be an impact when lining up on the inside, and when rushing off the edge. The Bruin is freakishly athletic at 6-4 and 275 lbs and still has room to add to his frame. Although he is a redshirt senior, Datone has unbelievable potential; he only started playing football in the 10th grade and continues to improve, develop, and mold his enormous talent. UCLA has had a great history with defensive ends with Donnie Edwards (Pro Bowler), Dave Ball, Akeem Ayers (2nd round) and Brian Price (2nd round), and now it will be with Datone Jones, who can go as early as 2nd or 3rd round as he has all the tools to become a future NFL starter. Q: What did you do this past offseason to get ready physically and mentally for this season?  Did you have any issues with your foot at all? Jones: Well, I’ve had no problems with my foot at all, and the difference between this year and last year is that I had a full offseason. Before coming into last year I didn’t have a true offseason because of my foot. When I came back, a couple weeks before Houston, that was my first time really running and that’s the difference from having a full offseason.  I was able to get my body right, my mind right, and get all the little kinks out before the playing year and get all my energy to do what I wanted to do and dominate. Q: What changed most about your game with the transition from Neuheisel to Mora Jr? Jones: I can’t really speak for the coaches, you know they’re both great coaches and I love them both, but the biggest difference in my game is I became a much smarter player. [I’m] looking at offensive line protections, the way they’re gonna slide, the way their gonna block me, making reads, just the mental things.  It’s those kind of things that’ll allow me to get to that next level you know? And I took that next step. I worked with our defensive line coach Angus McClure this offseason, and he taught me the offensive side of the game, and it just made me a better player because I understand it. Q: What effect has the 3-4 scheme had on you and do you prefer it to a 4-3? Jones: You know I can play in both of them, and be really productive whether it’s in a 3-4 or a 4-3. You know you get the same blocks, that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. I think you actually have to play the game to understand that. I’d love to play in either or, but you know I line up outside the tackle, sometimes I line up inside the tackle, I can line up on the center, or I can pass rush from the outside. Or you can even see me out there on offense catching balls; my game is multi-dimensional, I’m not a one-dimensional player, I can pretty much play anywhere across the line. Q: Which game this season do you think best showcased your overall talent and potential this season? Jones:  You know what, we have a rule called the “24-hour rule”, once you play you have 24 hours to celebrate that win, and then you forget about it. For me, I live by that rule, so once that game is over, that’s pretty much it. But you know each week is my next big game, and each week is my best game. Q: Heading into the combine what do you think you have to work on most? Jones: I probably have to gain a little more weight, a little more of change of direction type stuff, and I always have to work on my hands- all that stuff will be polished up, when it’s time and all said and done. I’ll be ready. Q: Looking ahead to the combine do you have any goals for the Bench Press, Broad Jump and 40? Jones: My goal is just to be the best in everything I do.  You know I’m a competitor and I hate losing, and I love to win, and I love to be the best. So that’s all I’m going to [do], is just to be the best that day. Q: How would you describe yourself as a defensive end, and what separates you from the rest of the ends entering the 2013 Draft? Jones: The thing that separates me from most ends in the nation is that I’m an every down guy. I’m a guy that can fit in anyone’s scheme. I’m a guy who can play the run and I can pass rush really well. I have strong hands, and I have a multi-dimensional game. I can line up on the outside and pass rush from there, or I can line up under center and be effective. Most guys can’t do a lot of things, you know most guys can pass rush but not play the run well, or most guys can play the run well, but they can’t pass rush. And I can do both of them. And you know even getting off the ball, my get-off is better than a lot of guys across the country. It just shows you I’m being productive in a 3-4 scheme, a lot of guys won’t be productive in it. Q: If you were able to compare yourself to an NFL player who would it be? Jones: Probably like a Justin Tuck from the Giants. He can line up on the edge, you see him on 3rd downs all the time, and being effective through the inside. You know I’m one those guys, I’m a tweener. Q: If you were able to do a touchdown dance against Houston what would you have done? (Note: Datone has played basketball all his life, and was on the same team as DeMar DeRozan at Compton High School) Jones: Oh I would’ve done a 360 dunk. Q: What can we expect from the Bruins for the rest of the season? Jones: Just to keep our level of play high man, we’ll play hard and hungry. That’s it, hard and hungry. It’s a maniacal effort, that’s all we can give you. And if everybody on our team just gives that effort, then we can’t be beat. -Schotz

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