Visiting Notre Dame's campus for several days in April, Jarron Jones
was just looking for challengers to play him in an NHL video game to
help fill his day.
The defensive lineman signee found an opponent, but he also found
himself with a front row seat to the announcement of Aaron Lynch's
The freshman-to-be just so happened to be making a campus visit during
the second week of April when the team announced Lynch would be
transferring. While he was getting to know his future teammates,
better he was also learning that he'd never get a chance to play
alongside one of the better defensive linemen to come through Notre
Dame in recent years.
“I never really expected it from him,” Jones said of Lynch's transfer.
“I talked to him a lot, but it happened. There's nothing much you can
do about it but just wish him good luck.”
Jones said he could feel the buzz on campus in light of the news, but
that it didn't dramatically change the tone of his visit. He was a
witness to Kelly's next-man-in mantra.
“That's pretty much what they were saying,” Jones said. “That is the
motto of the program.”
The defensive linemen may have been surprised at the news, but Jones
said the unit remained loyal to Lynch.
“Everyone still talks to him and everything,” Jones said. “Everybody's
still cool with him. I'm still cool with him. Nobody has anything
Jones recalled a moment at practice where one of the team's walk-ons
said that Lynch would regret his decision. The other defensive linemen
quickly came to Lynch's defense, saying he was making a decision that
Lynch felt was best for himself.
During a time of turmoil, Jones was able to get a sense for the
leadership within the defensive line unit. He said sophomore Stephon
Tuitt and junior Kona Schwenke stood out as leaders, but that the unit
was led more as a group than by one person.
“Everyone leads in their own way,” Jones said. “Everyone worked each
other hard and everyone challenged each other. ... It's pretty much a
Defensive line coach Mike Elston has told Jones to work on his speed
and pass-rushing skills to prepare himself for defensive end work in
the summer and fall. Jones has been doing both Notre Dame workouts and
a cross-fit workout to get in shape. The hardest part for Jones has
been a conditioning drill in which he must run a 350-yard shuttle in
under 65 seconds three times.
“The 350s are killing me,” Jones said with a laugh.
Jones will arrive on campus on June 17. He will join fellow freshman
Sheldon Day, who has been on campus since January and had an
With Lynch gone, the chances of seeing playing time as freshman
increased for Day and Jones. Seeing Day getting the chance to take
significant reps and perform well this spring encouraged Jones.
“I'm very happy for him,” Jones said. “Now I just got to work my way in.”