When Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson had a talk with Dre’Mont Jones over the winter, the gist of the discussion was, “You’re good, but you can be much better.”

Instead of touching a nerve in the defensive tackle, it lit a fuse.

Johnson said Jones wasn't disruptive enough as a three-technique defensive tackle lining up on the outside shoulder of an offensive guard. The goal from that position is to penetrate quickly into the backfield. Johnson said it was obvious Jones had that capability.

“So we challenged him with some things we’ve got to work on to make him a better pass rusher, because you’ve got everything else,” Johnson said. “Dre’Mont wants to dance a little bit; we want him to get vertical, get up the field. And I tell you, so far, knock on wood, he’s done that.”

>> Video: Coach Larry Johnson talks about Dre'Mont Jones

Considering he was thrust into the tackle mix in an emergency last year after Tracy Sprinkle was injured in the opener, Jones has turned heads quickly. A CBSSports.com early mock 2018 NFL draft listed the third-year sophomore as a possible first-round pick.

“I’m grateful for the looks and the interest, but I’m just worried about now,” Jones said. “I can’t get wrapped up in the future yet.”

What’s he knows, he said, is in his second year at tackle “my confidence level has just grown, honestly. … I’m out here playing with a bigger purpose for the team.”

He named almost every defensive lineman on the team. The feeling of brotherhood is mutual, said Sprinkle, the main man at the other tackle spot.

“Now to see him grow a lot — he’s interacting with the older guys,” Sprinkle said. “Last year, he was more just a football player, but he wasn’t really interacting with everybody. Now he’s taking on a role, being a leader in everything.”

Primarily an offensive player at Cleveland St. Ignatius until he was moved to defensive end near the end of his junior season, Jones showed up at OSU as a defensive end prospect. At 6 feet 3 and 295 pounds, he still has the lean look of an end.

After Johnson moved him inside, Jones had to become accustomed to operating in a crowd.

“Once he got used to doing that, you could see his athleticism take over,” Johnson said. “Now you’ve (often) got a one-on-one matchup with an offensive guard. So it gives a guy a one-on-one (opportunity) with his ability to be really dynamic.”

Jones likes it, and what it could mean for his future.

“My game is to just get off the ball, that’s my main focus … work my hands,” Jones said. “Me adapting to D-tackle is just another tool I can use if I’m able to pay D-end at the next level (NFL). Maybe, maybe not. But I’m just doing whatever coach needs me to do.”