Jones Has Come A Long Way To Lead Offense

Cardale Jones admits his time at Ohio State nearly ended before it truly began, but now, the third-year sophomore is leading the first-string offense and has cemented himself as a potential quarterback of the future for the Buckeyes. Read about how Jones has come back from his lows and how he's progressing this spring.

Before this spring, if you had mentioned Cardale Jones' name to Ohio State fans, odds are the first reaction would have been about "The Tweet."

In Jones bio, the situation deserves capital letters, to be honest. While Ohio State was putting together an undefeated run under new head coach Urban Meyer, the then-third-string quarterback took to Twitter during October 2012 and posted the following words.

"Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS"

For a while, Jones might as well have had the words tattooed to his forehead. The public declaration immediately made the rounds on blogs and news sites, bringing a quick black eye to Meyer's new program. The head man, as you might expect, was not amused, keeping Jones out of uniform for the Buckeyes' big win against Nebraska that weekend.

Looking back, Jones of course has the added benefit of hindsight. If he could kick himself for the lapse in judgment, it sounds like he would.

"It bothers me a lot that I did it because at that point, I was still 10 times better than what I was as a person off the field," he said. "It never should have been tweeted, but how I reacted to it was just having my teammates and my coaches around me comfort me about the whole thing. They got on me about it, but we moved past that."

When discussing the man now taking first-team reps at the quarterback position this spring while Braxton Miller returns from injury, Meyer showed he hasn't forgotten Jones' misstep, either. But the head coach also shows he can see the progress Jones has made from young freshman to potential starting quarterback.

"He was a guy that couldn't get out of his own way," Meyer said earlier this spring. "You're starting to see the progress in the classroom. You remember the famous tweet? It's a different guy."

That's just the latest example of the maturation of Jones, who says this of his early time at Ohio State: "I'm not going to lie, I had a lot of reality checks from my coaches."

The tweet was his most famous transgression, but it's clear from his words that wasn't all he adversity he's had to overcome since his arrival from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy after nearly leading Cleveland Glenville to its first state championship in school history.

In fact, Jones admits he was "very close" to being done at Ohio State – Meyer and coaching staff even had a sitdown with the quarterback and his family to discuss his future – but the confidence and support of the coaching staff kept him going.

"It's been more hard on the coaches than for me because they stuck with me and they believed in me and they kept pushing me," Jones said. "They've basically stuck with me, and they kept riding me every day."

The result is that Jones is the leader in the race to back up Miller this fall – a key spot considering the two-time Big Ten Silver Football winner's much-publicized run of injuries in his career – and perhaps to be the starting quarterback a year from now.

His strengths are obvious on the field, including a rocket arm, tremendous size and good speed provided by a long stride that allowed him to average 7.5 yards per carry in limited action last year. He can make something out of nothing and continues to develop both his understanding of the offense and his accuracy, though some passes still end up off the mark and turnovers happen more than the coaches would like during what is the spring of his sophomore campaign.

"Cardale is 6-5 and 250 pounds and can throw it through that wall," quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said earlier this spring. "(I tell him), 'Use some of that. Use the talents that you have while we develop the portions of your game that need to be developed.' Cardale has done a great job. He has done nothing to deserve less reps with the ones right now He's playing like a quarterback at Ohio State should."

Meyer is famously not a mincer of words, and he proved that yet again earlier this week when discussing Jones' play. When talking to the media after Tuesday's spring practice, Meyer said, "Cardale was bad today. When I say bad – real bad," and the head coach said that practice performance was "awful" a day later when talking with hundreds of fans, boosters and media at his annual Spring Kick-Off for charity.

Jones response?

"I grabbed our offense together earlier today in the team room and just talked them," he said after Saturday's student appreciation practice. "I said, ‘We can't be tight, playing tight,' because Tuesday we played real tight. We had a terrible day overall, and we just got back to the basics with the guys."

A reaction such as that is another piece to the puzzle as Jones has shown he can handle Meyer's negative talk just as much as the positive. In that vein, Meyer said at Wednesday's Kick-Off event that Jones has proved this spring he can be a quarterback at Ohio State. And Tuesday, when he said Jones was "real bad"? After that, Meyer said, "Up until today he was one of the most improved players on the team."

Jones knows he's not where he needs to be. He'll admit that, too. But when he hears words such as those from the coaching staff, Jones knows that he's on the right track after a rough beginning at Ohio State.

"It is good to hear from our coaches because that ensures that they have complete confident in me and trust me," Jones said. "Our coaches are pretty straightforward. When we have bad days and we're not looking too good, they'll let you guys know. Him letting me know I've come a long way and things like that, it's just fuel to the fire."

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