PWTV: Daniel Jones
It was heartbreaking to watch.
Michigan State stud receiver B.J. Cunningham sprinted by Northwestern cornerback Daniel Jones for his second touchdown of the game, the dagger in the Wildcats' loss to the 11th-ranked Spartans.
Jones was forced into action when Jordan Mabin suffered a shoulder injury. Then a redshirt freshman, lacking game experience as a Big Ten cornerback, he appeared outmatched by the big, physical receiver.
Cunningham finished with 120 receiving yards and two touchdowns in that game. As for Jones, he received a valuable learning experience.
"It kind of made me realize that this is the big leagues, I'm going to have to bring my 'A' game every single snap," said Jones. "It helped me to focus there."
Following the game against Michigan State, Jones earned the right to start at cornerback in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, taking Mabin's place. With weeks of preparation under his belt this time, Jones was confident when he took the field in Houston.
"It was a whole lot easier, the game was a whole lot slower, I was a lot more confident," said Jones. "Things kind of went smoothly, I think it continued to get better from there."
Jones is now battling for a starting spot at cornerback this season. He still reviews the film from his matchup with Cunningham, which provides a new opportunity to improve each time he watches.
"All the times I was there, it was just being in the wrong shade on this play or jumping late on this play," Jones said. "Every play that I didn't make, I was in a position that I could have made. It's just learning from it and now knowing what to do the next time so I can make the play."
This spring, Jones is working to fine-tune all aspects of his game, in order to compete for the starting job.
"I'm focusing on becoming a better tackler," he said. "Just trying to become a complete corner, complete my game, and help my team the best that I can."
If Jones becomes the starter, he'll be a more confident cornerback than before; if not, he'll be primed to step on the field, if needed.
"Always be prepared and ready," said Jones. "Because you never know when that moment will come."