SEATTLE – Rarely does a sober look cross the face of Washington Huskies defensive end Darrion Jones, a fifth-year senior from California.
But last season gave him every reason to frown.
And for a split second, he did – after California’s 48-7 pounding of the UW last December capped the Huskies’ 0-12 season.
“I was upset. I felt like I could have done more,” said Jones, who started nine games in 2008 but ended it coming off the bench. “Then my dad came up to me. He told me, ‘Son, it was a bad season. But you’ve got one more year. Keep looking forward.’ ”
He took his father’s advice, then went a step further by earning the coaches’ nod as the starting defensive end opposite Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – with whom Jones came in as part of former coach Tyrone Willingham’s first recruiting class.
With Te’o-Nesheim expected to be one of the Pacific-10 Conference’s best pass rushers on one side, Jones should get a few chances to do something he’s never done in college – earn a sack.
“The goal is one (sack),” said Jones, when asked if he has a number in mind he’d like to get to this season. “I didn’t have any last year. I can’t set a higher number than that yet.”
It was a statistic UW defensive line coach Johnny Nansen wasn’t aware of.
“He’d better get one,” Nansen said. “If he doesn’t, he’s not working hard enough in practice.”
The starting position was up for grabs last spring. Many figured sophomore Everette Thompson, a rising talent from Kennedy High in Burien, was the favorite. But Jones earned it long before Thompson suffered an ankle injury.
“Darrion has great speed and understands sets,” Nansen said. “And he’s great with his hands.”
And that was before he recorded the biggest jump in strength numbers over the offseason, going from a 450-pound bench press to more than 500.
“I was talking to a couple of the (offensive linemen) in practice, and they said the defensive line, as a whole, had gotten faster and better with their hands,” Jones said.
Jones said he held to three primary goals during the summer. One was to stay healthy. Another was to increase his pass-rushing explosion. And, finally, he wanted to hold everyone accountable for “maximizing their time.”
It’s a leadership trait that he and Te’o-Nesheim share. Both have grown pretty close, and Jones said he has learned a thing or two about hard work from the Hawaii native.
“We talk a lot, about the things we’ve worked on, and about the things that bothered us a lot,” Jones said. “We’ve used each other to vent.”
Linebacker Matt Houston (arm) will be out up to a month with a torn biceps. He had been challenging for time with the second-string defense. ... Center Ryan Tolar (toe) was held out for precautionary reasons. Coach Steve Sarkisian said he didn’t want the right toe to flare up and become “turf toe.” ... Cornerback Matt Mosley (knee) was an addition to the injury list. He was injured at the end of practice Thursday, joining safeties Victor Aiyewa (head) and Jason Wells (Achilles’ tendon), running back Johri Fogerson (right ankle), offensive linemen Morgan Rosborough (shoulder) and Terence Thomas (foot), and defensive tackle Craig Noble (knee) on the sideline. ... Linebacker Joshua Gage (hand) has a cast on his right hand, but practiced. ... Sarkisian said Wilson High product Desmond Trufant will see plenty of repetitions, and has lived up to his word. Trufant will get an extended look in the punt-return game. ... Today is the team’s final preseason scrimmage (3 p.m.). Sarkisian said he’d like to see the offense put a “10- 12-play drive together, cohesively work together and ... find the tempo of an offense.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442