Datone Jones, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound four-star defensive end from Compton High School in Calif., finished his senior season (8-3) with 126 tackles, 13 sacks, five fumbles caused and one interception.
Jones has been committed to UCLA since May, but describes it now as a "soft commitment". "It's about 50 percent solid right now," Jones said. "I'm still committed to UCLA, but things can still change by Signing Day. You never know."
While the firing of UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell did put a damper on his commitment, he says he was always interested in taking other official visits. "I really wanted to see what was outside of California and get a chance to experience the whole recruiting thing. That's what it's about. I don't want to regret my decision at all."
Jones has scheduled visits with Oregon on Jan. 11, Arizona State on Jan. 18 and Notre Dame on Jan. 25. He has already visited Colorado on Dec. 8 and UCLA on Dec. 14. All of his favorites have offered.
"The first time I visited UCLA, I fell in love," he said. "It was love at first sight. They run the same scheme as we do and they are losing a few defensive ends so I'll be able to play early. I wasn't really planning on committing that early or anything, but I liked UCLA so much I just did it.
"Everybody wants to win and I know they struggled this year, but with all the players they are bringing in and coming back I think they'll be on top of the Pac-10 in the next two years."
While Jones is optimistic about the Bruins future, he says it's been tough being a UCLA fan the past four weeks. "It's been a tough month," he said. "I care about the whole head coaching situation, but for me the defensive coordinator (DeWayne Walker) and my position coach are more important. I think that if coach Walker got the head coaching job, a lot of guys would be going to UCLA. I'm waiting to see what happens with all that."
Jones is only one of numerous recruits to profess their affections for coach Walker. Just what is it that makes Walker so appealing to recruits? "He's a genius," Jones exclaimed. He's just a football genius, plus he's a good guy. Their defense has been great and it's because of him.
"Coach Walker is kind of like your best friend," he said. "He's always available to talk to you and likes to give advice and is very involved with his players."
The frustration of the Bruins up-and-down season came to an end with a heartbreaking loss to BYU. a game which Jones says he thought UCLA had won. "When they kicked that field goal I ran out of the room and thought it was over," he said. "But then the refs said it was no good, I just couldn't believe. Man, it was a crazy game."
While Jones remains 50% committed to the Bruins now, he says he grew up watching cross-town rival USC. "They were always on TV the most and I would watch all their games," he said. "They've been recruiting me too and have offered me, but they are pretty stacked. I don't want to go and sit. I want to be able to play."
Despite being committed for over seven months, Jones says that Colorado is the school that has been on him the hardest. "They've really been after me hard," he said. "Plus when I took my trip they really showed me a great time. It was an amazing trip. They actually took us out in the country to see a herd of buffaloes. I've never seen a buffalo and it was crazy. It's a tremendous animal.
"Plus the Colorado visit was the first time I was in a different environment," he said. "I've been in Vegas before, but that doesn't count. Colorado was really different and it was snowing and everything. I really liked it."
He says he's equally eager to check out the environment of Notre Dame. "I want to see if I'd be able to live in South Bend," he said. "I need to see if I'd even like it there. I love the tradition at Notre Dame and they were one of the first schools to start recruiting me. Also, coach Charlie Weis seems like a great guy too."
But prior to his trip to Notre Dame, Jones will be visiting Oregon and Arizona State. "I've been watching Oregon for a long time too," he said. "I love how they fly around the field and are always around the ball. They hit hard and are a fun team. I also really like the coaches, especially Don Pellum (linebackers and recruiting coordinator).
"Arizona State is another fun team to watch play," he said. "I really like the whole program and they really seem to have something good going under coach Dennis Erickson. He's done a great job in his first year and I think they'll be getting even better."
Jones is ranked as the No. 22 defensive end in the country by Scout.com.
"I go low, fast and hard," he said. "That's my strength. Every coach I talk with says how much they love how I fly around sideline-to-sideline and hit. I think quarterbacks are afraid of me and I'm really hard to block because I have such a fast get off."
Although he says he can bench 315 pounds, Jones admits he'd like to improve his upper body strength. "I want to bull rush better and get even stronger."
He reports a 3.0 core GPA and an 810 SAT, which he plans to retake.