Cleat Geeks

The Cardale Tale

Cardale Jones. Cardale Jones. Cardale Jones. Following a trio of jaw-dropping performances that led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 42-20 National Championship win over No. 2 Oregon, third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, became a country-wide phenomenon. Jones made his debut December 6th during the Big Ten Championship Game against No. 13 Wisconsin following the season-ending injuries of starting quarterback Braxton Miller and backup quarterback J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes who were at that time sitting at No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings with possible entry into the Top 4, were facing a seemingly inevitable loss ahead of them. Wisconsin’s star running back and Heisman finalist, Melvin Gordon, posed a major threat against the suspect Ohio State defense, rushing for an average of 188.3 yards per game in the regular season, as well as 408 yards in the dismantling of No. 16 Nebraska in week 12. The pressure was on for Jones. Only attempting 17 passes (during the 2014 season and previous to the Big Ten Championship Game) the odds appeared to be against Urban Meyer and his team of scarlet and gray. No one, however (except for Meyer) had expected what had happened next.

Ohio State Head Football Coach Urban Meyer.

Ohio State Head Football Coach Urban Meyer.

59-0; the final score of the Big Ten Championship Game that left the College Football Nation speechless in front of their big-screen TVs. Not only had Jones embarrassed the Badgers, but he put on a performance worthy of Heisman candidacy, throwing for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not bad for his first career start.
The day is January 1st, and the now No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes are entering the Sugar Bowl to face against No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semi-final. Alabama, the usual powerhouse of the SEC, were favored by nine points by the start of the game. The Crimson Tide, looking to claim their 4th National Championship with Nick Saben at the reigns, came ready to play, going up over the Buckeyes 21-6 after a pair of turnovers by the scarlet and gray as well as a touchdown pass to Heisman candidate Amari Cooper in the first quarter. However, with the game well in Alabama’s favor and the game nearing halftime, Cardale “12 Gauge” Jones prevailed, leading his team to 28 unanswered points and an eventual 42-35 victory. Yet again the country was left marveled at what Cardale Jones had done.
January 12th; the first ever College Football Playoff Championship Game has come down to No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 4 Ohio State. The Ducks, who had averaged 47.2 points per game going into January 12th (including a 59-20 thumping over No.3 Florida State) and having Heisman winner Marcus Mariota as starting quarterback, looked to have a solid chance at claiming their first ever national championship. Like Oregon does, their fast-tempo offense scored quickly to start the game, leaving spectators wondering if that would be the course of the game. Under pressure again, Jones silenced his critics with 14 points being added to the score board and giving his team the lead. As the game went on, the Buckeye’s clutch defense prevented the Ducks from cashing in on four crucial turnovers (3 by Jones), as well as slowing down Oregon’s fast-paced offense to a complete halt to give the Buckeyes a 42-20 victory as well as the title of Undisputed National Champions.
What an accomplishment.
Cardale Jones, being the most unlikely of heroes this season, suddenly became the hot topic for NFL scouts across the nation after only three career starts.
That’s a big deal.
The decision for Jones to enter into the 2015 NFL Draft would not have been a surprising one however, considering he could throw a football from the 50-yard line through the uprights… on his knees (hence the nickname “12 Gauge”). His experience however, had only been limited to those 3 starts and closing off an easy win here and there, and much of the Ohio State coaching staff believed that he should strongly consider staying and continuing his education and obtaining more quarterback experience. Tom Herman (former offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes), opened up to Mike Meltser and Seth Payne on Mad Radio in regards to Cardale’s interest in the NFL, sharing that he thought it best for Jones to put more time into his college football career.
“The word experience, the definition of it is ‘you have to do it to have it’ and he hasn’t done it consistently enough for long enough, just yet.”
Jones – who threw for 742 yards as well as five touchdowns and two interceptions in his three starts – decided last Thursday to remain a Buckeye for at least the season to come.
“After three games, (the NFL) was out of the question,” Jones followed by saying that “A first-round draft pick meant nothing to [him] without [his] education.”
Jones may not get the quarterback experience that he needs though.

Ohio State 2014-2015 starting quarterback Braxton Miller.

Ohio State 2014-2015 starting quarterback Braxton Miller.

Starting quarterback Braxton Miller, who was rumored to transfer to Oregon, Florida State, or Duke for his last year of eligibility, has no current intention to make the transfer, and should return in the spring along with second-string quarterback, J.T. Barrett. Barrett, a red shirt freshman who had led the Buckeyes through the regular season with big wins over No. 8 Michigan State and No. 25 Minnesota, is in the process of recovery after a season-ending injury during week 14 and hopes to be ready in time for spring practice. If Miller and Barrett are fully functional through spring and summer practice, Urban Meyer will be left with a trifecta of Heisman-worthy quarterbacks, and with that Cardale may go from being a hotshot national champion back to a probable benchwarmer.
So did Jones really make the right decision?

Looking at the performance and skill sets of the three quarterbacks, I believe that he has. If you were to draw a line with Miller on one end, Jones on the other, and Barrett in the middle, the spectrum on Miller’s side would be dominated by characteristics such as rushing capabilities and agility, while Jones’s side would be dominated by arm strength and accuracy of throws.
Taking into account Miller’s performance for the 2013 season, it is clear that Miller does not have NFL quarterback qualities such as efficiency in pocket-passing and making accurate passes. Miller can break tackles and stutter-step his way into the end zone, but he will need to improve his passing game if he wants to maintain his position as QB (however with two other high-performing quarterbacks at Meyer’s disposal, that is highly unlikely). My suggestion is to move Miller into a slot receiver position, which would be a powerful addition to the success of the Buckeye’s offense as well as assist Miller’s future success in the NFL.

2nd string Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett.

2nd string Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett.

It now comes down to Barrett and Jones. Sound familiar?
While Barrett can be accurate and quick, he still lacks the leg strength of Miller and arm strength of Jones, leaving him in the middle position. For coming in as a starter only weeks before the season opener Barrett showed great promise, passing for 31 touchdowns in 12 games and 5 interceptions. His work ethic kept him improving, and his team reached a noticeable difference in skill by the end of the regular season (as opposed to week 2 when they were defeated by an unranked Virginia Tech at home). He has been known to underthrow his receivers quite often however, and his inaccuracy downfield may prevent him from claiming that number one spot.
Now on to Cardale Jones, the Ben Roethlisberger in the making. Cardale Jones, who stands at 6’5”/250 lbs, displayed remarkable pass accuracy during the Wisconsin shutout on December 6th as well as key decision-making as shown through the rest of his starts. Though his experience is minimal, his potential is exponential, and you cannot help but expect much, much more from him in the future. Although he lacks the speed that Miller and Barrett have, his build doesn’t keep him from plowing through a line of defenders, and if he does plan on a future in the NFL, being a rushing quarterback won’t be necessary.
If I were Urban Meyer, I would definitely delegate between Jones and Barrett for the 2015 quarterback position, with Jones most likely coming out on top, and Miller being placed in the slot. That being said, I can only argue that Cardale Jones made the right decision by continuing on to another year at ‘THE’ Ohio State University.

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