For Jarron Jones, it's not about expectations and it's not about predictions of his emergence as a sophomore in 2013. It's about opportunity and maximizing the moment.
"It's just a blessing to be here," said Jones, the 6-foot-5, 299-pound freshman defensive lineman two days before Notre Dame's national title tilt against Alabama.
"The high expectations are there, but I'm here to do my job and make the most of my experience. If I exceed these expectations, I do. If I don't, I'll know I did everything I could to make the most of my opportunities."
A promising future awaits Jones. Jones preserved a year of eligibility in 2012, which means he'll enter the 2013 season with four more years to blend in and make an impact along a defensive front that controlled the line of scrimmage on Notre Dame's run to the national title.
Jones spent the fall semester adjusting to life outside of Aquinas Institute and Rochester, N.Y., where he developed into one of the nation's top two-way linemen and helped lead Aquinas to the New York State A championship as a junior.
Listed as a defensive end upon his arrival, Jones has moved inside with players such as Louis Nix III, Kona Schwenke and Tony Springmann to form the interior of the defensive line for the Irish.
"I get the most work at both the nose and the three-tech," Jones said. "I play those evenly. So yes, I'll be an interior guy."
Some thought Jones would end up along the offensive line, where he continues to give the Irish defense a look as an occasional prep-team guy. But the Irish need help and bulk along the defensive front. With Nix and Schwenke both entering their final year of eligibility, the Irish could use Jones to take the next step this spring.
Virtually every time Brian Kelly was asked this season about emerging freshmen who did not see game action in 2012, Jones' name was mentioned.
"I just come to practice with the rest of my brothers and do my job and do it to the best of my ability," said Jones when told of Kelly's praise. "On the offensive scout team, I try to give these guys a look. On the defensive scout team, just work my ass off and give great effort."
Jones lists Kapron Lewis-Moore and defensive line coach Mike Elston as the two greatest influences on him during his first semester at Notre Dame.
"I have to say just the d-line in general, helping me get around here and helping me adjust to this atmosphere, adjusting to the lifestyle," Jones said. "Without them, I would feel lost here. They've been keeping me on track, especially Coach Elston and Kapron Lewis-Moore, who is also a captain. It's just been a blessing to have those guys in my life."
Asked what areas he needs to show the most improvement, Jones freely mixes football and non-football related details on his priority list.
"There's technique, there's academics, the weight room, and there's also staying organized," Jones said. "That would be one of the main things that would help me improve, just staying organized and keeping my head on straight and keeping my focus.
"I survived the first semester. I did well. But then again I can always do better. It's just been a great experience. Once I completely adjust, I'll be fine."
Jones has been positively impacted by his brief Notre Dame experience.
"It just helps me to become a better person, more out-going," said Jones of Notre Dame. "It feels just like being at home at Notre Dame. It's a great experience. The academics help you maintain that mental toughness. Mental toughness is the one thing that is changing me."