It was basketball, always basketball for Dawand Jones.
Even midway through last football season, the Ohio State signee had resolved to play basketball once he graduated from Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School.
Now that Jones has become the final piece to Ryan Day’s inaugural recruiting class, his high school coach indicated those years of basketball can help the mammoth offensive tackle’s next-level transition.
“The basketball has his body trained to play in space, has his body trained to use his length to his advantage,” said Ben Davis head coach Jason Simmons. “And really that quick foot-touch, being able to put his foot in the ground and redirect, he’s going to need that at some point. Whether it’s a pass-rush move up and under, whether it’s a guy that’s slanting post-snap, he’s going to need those feet in the Big Ten.
“But basketball truly has helped him in terms of playing in space and using his length.”
Jones, who didn’t play football until nearly middle school and won’t turn 18 until August, now is crowding 6-foot-8 and nearly 375 pounds. Both before and upon arriving this summer in Columbus, Jones needs continued focus on his frame.
“You know, the good Lord blessed him being six-seven-and-a-half, six-eight, but he’s got to get that college-looking body,” Simmons said. “He’s got the frame, and he’s putting the work in right now. That’s probably the best thing about him, is just his commitment to showing up every day and working, even when he doesn’t feel great.
“Especially with basketball going on. Those are the two areas for him that I think he has to grow.”
The other primary area for ongoing improvement, per Simmons, is more of intangible measurement: Jones still is relatively new to the gridiron. Knowledge of the game is developing each day.
“When you look at where he has to close the gap, you know, his football IQ has to continue to grow; it’s so new to him,” said Simmons, who had three players including Jones who signed Division One scholarships this month. “You look at the growth he made in that area and just his understanding and the nuances of reading a defensive end, just understanding defensive scheme, he’s got to grow in that area and he’s got to close the gap in that area.”
Now, clearly, Jones already is showing elements that attract the like of suitors such as Florida, Southern Cal, Penn State and others who lost his services to the Buckeyes.
Chief amongst them is overall athleticism — and a wing-span of nearly 80 inches similarly doesn’t hurt.
“When you look at what he does really well, when you look at the strengths, his athleticism is freakish,” said Jones, doubling down for emphasis. “I mean for a young man his size, his athleticism is freakish, his take-off really is better than what people give it credit for. And then you look at his ability to pass protect. And some of it is due to his feet, but the other part, too, is due to his length.
“He has a good understanding, because of basketball, how to leverage his body in certain spots and also how to handle his length to keep people away from him. The growth he showed from his junior to senior year is huge.”
Now that it’s officially football, the next step for Dawand Jones will come at Ohio State.