Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Arthur Jones could have left for the NFL last season and likely would have been a high pick. Instead, he chose to come back for his senior season and help Syracuse rebuild under first-year coach Doug Marrone.
Jones' numbers are a little down -- he only has 18 tackles, 6.5 of them for loss -- but he remains one of the best defensive tackles in the Big East, and a steadying influence during a tumultuous week for the Orange. I caught up with Jones before his team headed to Pittsburgh for this week's Friday Q&A:
So, uh, things have been a little interesting around Syracuse this week, huh?
Arthur Jones: It's definitely been an interesting week. But everything 's going good. We're focused now, ready for Pittsburgh.
You guys are leading the Big East in rush defense, doing a much better job than last year. What's the difference?
AJ: Basically just believing in our system. We're more of an attack defense than last year. I give credit to (defensive coordinator Scott) Shafer and all the guys he brought into the program. He's a passionate coach who won't let you slack in practice. He's unbelievable. I enjoy having him here. I just wish I had him for a few more years.
Speaking of which, you're approaching the end of your college career. Has that hit you yet, and does it add to your sense of urgency?
AJ: Oh yeah, definitely. I was telling my brother yesterday that I only have four more opportunities to play for this great university. It kind of hit me a few days ago. I'm just trying to make the best of it, do what I can and just enjoy the rest of my time being here.
You could have turned pro last January. Are you happy you came back to school?
AJ: Oh yeah. I believe everything happens for a reason. Stats-wise, I'm not where I wanted to be, but I'm healthy right now and I got the opportunity to play under these great coaches. I'm just happy to play with my little brother and the rest of the Orange family. I can't really complain.
Speaking of stats, yours are a little down but stats don't always tell the story for a defensive lineman. How do you think you've played this year?
AJ: I think I've played pretty well. A lot of teams are game-planning against me, trapping the middle, things like that. But assignment-wise, I think I'm doing a pretty good job, taking on double teams and just playing the defense.
That happened last year to you as well. When did you accept that you were going to be double-teamed most plays and wouldn't always be able to make plays?
AJ: It mainly hit me this year more than last year. Even last year, I was still able to make some plays when I was double-teamed, really. It hit me this year that they're really scheming against me. It's all right. If I'm not making a play, I feel like I am making a play when there's two guys on me and Derrell Smith makes a tackle or something. So I celebrate when they celebrate.
You mentioned playing alongside your younger brother, Chandler. What's that been like?
AJ: It's been unbelievable. In high school, I didn't get a chance to play with him because he was a freshman and I was a senior. He actually got brought up in my last game as a senior, but he played in the JV championship earlier that day and wasn't allowed to play. It's just been fun, flying around with him and watching him goof off on the field.
You guys have matched your win total from last year. What are your goals for the rest of the year?
AJ: What I hope to accomplish the rest of the season is finish strong, be the best leader I can for my team and just have fun. I have four games left, so I will just try to live in the moment. Or five games. When we make a bowl game.
You sound confident about that.
AJ: Oh yeah.
You had the news this week of three suspensions and Mike Williams quitting. Is that a distraction, or does it bring you closer together?
AJ: I think honestly it brought us together. Yesterday was an unbelievable practice, with all the things that have been going on. Guys were just flying around. It was physical. It felt like the first day of camp when you've got the pads on. It was unbelievable to see guys that motivated and the level of intensity that was going on. Hopefully we can carry that on and continue that.
There was also a lot of talk about the small crowd at Saturday's game. Did you notice that, and what do you think about it?
AJ: I honestly did not know that until you just told me. I honestly would not know. I don't really look at crowds unless I hear my mom screaming in the crowd, and I can hear her anywhere. I just go out and play for my team and for each other.
What about the challenges Pitt poses on offense? The Panthers are averaging about 34 points a game.
AJ: I'm excited for this week. They've got a real good, physical offensive line, probably the best we'll see this year. Their quarterback is pretty accurate with the ball, and they've got great running backs. It's going to be a challenge this week, but we're ready for it.
Do you relish playing a straight ahead, physical offense?
AJ: They're more of a basic team, running right at you with powers and iso's and things like that. None of that spread stuff. I'm excited. It's old-fashioned football.
How big would it be for you guys to get a Big East win?
AJ: It would be great to get that first Big East win. It's a little late, but it's not too late to get it rolling. I believe we can win out; I honestly think that. We've just got to keep believing, keep clawing and scratching.
Is your other brother, Jon, still competing in UFC?
AJ: He has another fight on December 5. He's doing a fantastic job.
Is that something you'd ever get into?
AJ: I don't know about that. I'm too much of a prima donna for that.