STILLWATER – Don't think Richetti Jones doesn't know coaches and fans have been longing for his “arrival” at Oklahoma State.
He's been waiting, too, having totaled just 14 total tackles in two seasons since joining the Cowboys as the “next big thing” in 2007.
And that makes it all the more exciting for him that the talk is it is Jones' time to shine.
“Finally,” he said. “I'm just ready to step up and make plays for my team and be the player that I used to be.”
“Wait, you know what?” Jones said, a wide grin overtaking his face, “I don't want to just be the player I used to be, I want to better than I used to be. I want to be a new person.”
Once upon a time, and it seems a distant time ago, Jones projected as an answer to Oklahoma State's ongoing struggle to attract elite defensive line help. He was rated among the nation's elite prep defensive ends, a sackmaster coming out of Dallas' Lincoln High.
But that was before a freak hip injury halted his prep senior season and stunted his development in Stillwater as he overcame the setback both physically and mentally.
Jones redshirted in '07, played sparingly in '08, then more as a backup a year ago when he managed nine tackles, albeit three for sacks.
Now – yes, finally – there are signs that Jones might be primed for a breakout.
“Richetti is stepping up,” said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young. “He's really playing better. He made a great play for a sack in the two-minute drill (in Saturday's scrimmage).
“He's just getting better and better.”
And that's good news for a defense in transition from massive turnover and needing the ends to be a boost for a defensive front carrying depth concerns inside.
If this is Jones' official arrival, it's right on time.
“It needs to be, without question,” Young said. “He'll be a redshirt junior, and it's time for him to play.”
Young and his staff are making it easier for Jones to succeed. While injuries forced him to learn three positions a year ago – both ends and a tackle – his work is singular now.
“It wasn't totally fair to Richetti last year, because he had to learn so many different assignments,” Young said. “Now he's focused in as an end.”
For Jones, it's lightened his mental load.
“It's helped a lot,” he said. “I'm able to get comfortable at defensive end.”
Jones claims a new-found comfort physically, too, another year removed from suffering that rare injury in high school, when he went up to swat a pass and landed awkwardly, breaking his hip.
The break was serious, creating initial concern about the potential for a degenerative situation in the joint. Eventually, the prognosis brightened, although Jones faced a rigorous rehab to regain the form that made him an Army All-American and prompted the nickname “Richetti the Machete” to describe his pass-rushing prowess.
A year ago at this time, he talked positively about his progress. Yet looking back, he realizes he still wasn't all the way back.
“Oh, I'm much further along than I was last year,” Jones said. “I'm a totally different player; a totally different person. I want to accomplish all I can, collect all the accolades I can.
“I actually feel great. I haven't felt this good in years. I'm ready to roll and help my team win some games.”