Dre’Mont Jones could have left Ohio State a few months ago.

When and where he would have gone in the NFL draft, no one knows. But as a quick-through-the-gap defensive tackle, he had been seen as a player who could have left OSU early, even after a freak injury — suffering a serious cut to his leg while messing around with another player near his locker — cost him three games. He recovered and played increasingly better as the season progressed.

When it came time in January to make his decision, though, he opted to return for his fourth year.

“The physical aspects, I feel like I could have done well, football-wise,” Jones said. “But mentally I felt like I wasn’t there. I felt like I needed the extra maturity for my mind, and then your body will come along with it. … I just felt like I needed an extra year really to just grow. D-tackle is a very taxing position. I need to develop my body as much as I can.”

That’s where things grew interesting, as far as coach Urban Meyer, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and defensive line coach Larry Johnson were concerned. The 15 days of spring practice were their barometer.

“The guy who probably had the best spring of anybody on our team is Dre’Mont Jones,” Meyer said. “He was outstanding. For a guy to come back when a lot of people thought he should leave, a lot of times we have to deal with, whether it be effort issues or ‘Why am I doing this?’ issues — zero. And that’s a credit to his family and (coach) Larry Johnson. He had a great spring.

“And if he continues his development, he can be one of the best in America at what he does.”

Schiano saw the same things.

“He did not come into the spring to try to get through it like a lot of guys would who have the talent and have had the kind of season he had last year,” Schiano said. “He came through the spring trying to improve his game, and he did that.”

Jones said he never would have thought of taking a slide. Besides, he had things to work on with Johnson showing the way.

“Becoming a better technician — that’s what I really wanted to clean up, small things, like first steps, my fits, and making sure I’m staying low in my pass rush,” Jones said.

Working under football performance coordinator Mickey Marotti has helped him become a stout 281 pounds, Jones said. The key word there is work, though, said Johnson, who has seen no coasting in the offseason program.

“Dre’Mont has gone to another level,” Johnson said. “He understands what it takes to be a great player. The reason he came back was because he wants to be a great player. And to do that you’ve got to go to work. And the way he is working right now, it’s off the charts.”