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PSU DL Duo Must Embrace Strengths

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DaQuan Jones can be a great nose tackle someday, so his plan to slim down could backfire if he doesn't get to the quarterback more often this season. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.
DaQuan Jones can be a great nose tackle someday, so his plan to slim down could backfire if he doesn't get to the quarterback more often this season. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.

Every year Penn State finds a way to churn out at least one great defensive lineman.

This year they could have two in defensive end Deion Barnes and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. However, the pair couldn’t be more different their style of play, tendencies and NFL futures.

Jones: Not A Pass Rusher

Jones is one of largest, most immovable objects in the Big Ten, but he made it a point to lose weight in the offseason. After playing near 330 pounds last season, he is trying to lose 15 to 20 pounds before his senior campaign.

Talk about a bad call.

While it’s admirable Jones has committed to slim down to be more of pass-rushing threat, he doesn’t have to. Quick off the snap, Jones can bull rush any offensive lineman 1-on-1.

Where Jones fails to get to the quarterback is with good hand and footwork. He barely uses his hands to disengage pass-blocking offensive lineman and lets them lead him away from the pocket on outside rushes.

Still, double-teams against Jones in the running game were fruitless last season because of how well he holds his ground. While his habit of allowing offensive linemen to lead him away from the play occasionally hurts him, he needs to embrace his strengths, no pun intended.

He could be a valuable nose tackle to an NFL defense in 12 months, so there’s no reason to try to be something he isn’t.

Barnes: An OLB At DE

It’s commonplace to have a future 3-4 outside linebacker playing defensive end in college, so Barnes is right on track with many other former Penn State defensive ends, including Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and LaVar Arrington. And he’s ready from a technique standpoint, too.

Barnes displayed discipline against the run last season in limited time. He consistently held outside containment and forced ball carriers back inside, a rare quality in young defensive ends and outside linebackers.

Barnes can pass-rush, but can he do it in the Big Ten? He got three of his six sacks against Ohio and Virginia.

Still, a quick explosion at the snap of the ball gives Barnes an edge on offensive tackles, and he finds ways to sneak through guards and tackles. His quickness forces some offensive tackles to backpedal too quickly, which opens up an underneath lane to quarterbacks.

There flaws in Barnes’ game, though.

Barnes’ inconsistent tackling is troublesome. He makes a bad habit of catching runners instead of attacking them. He can be neutralized if offensive lineman get their hands on him because he struggles to shed blocks once engaged. Adding better hand work to his repertoire will make him a great pass-rush threat.

Still, the one thing that makes this duo so dangerous is their effort.

While they are very different players, they could both be impactful for Penn State’s defense if they embrace their strengths.