The then-freshman took to his Twitter account in 2012 to ask why he should go to classes because he and players like him “came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL.”
The tweet has overshadowed Jones as an athlete. The Cleveland Glenville product has been tied to the Ohio State football program since committing to the Buckeyes in October 2011. He signed a letter of intent to play at OSU in February 2011 but did not come to Columbus. Jones instead opted to attempt prep school at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia before joining the Buckeyes in 2012.
While he has yet to make a big splash on the field, Jones certain has the necessary tools to be a successful quarterback. At 6-5 and 250 pounds and a strong arm that has garnered plenty of praise from his coaches and teammates, Jones will now get a chance to show his stuff Saturday when he gets his first career start in the Big Ten Championship Game vs. Wisconsin.
“I think he’s really excited. He’s not excited for Cardale, he’s excited for Ohio State,” OSU quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “He’s excited that his number is called and that he’s being asked to go ahead and do his job to make sure we win the game.
“He understands that he doesn’t have to be super human or do anything that he wouldn’t do in practice, but just that his number is being called and he has an opportunity to go help Ohio State win a Big Ten championship.”
Jones was the top quarterback last spring while starter Braxton Miller dealt with offseason surgery. He was unable to hold on to the job when Miller suffered a second shoulder injury in August. Instead, he slipped back into a reserve role, getting into the game only after an OSU victory had been assured.
Until J.T. Barrett, the man who beat Jones for the starting job, went down with a right ankle fracture against Michigan. Jones guided the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter, engineered a touchdown drive and helped Ohio State post a 42-28 victory over the Wolverines. He completed two of his three passes for 7 yards and added 18 yards rushing on a pair of carries.
He will need to do more against the Badgers, who bring the No. 2-ranked team in the nation in total defense. Jones has attempted just 19 passes as a Buckeye, but boasts a powerful arm. Herman registered it as “eleventy-billion” on an “arm-strength-o-meter.” Consistency remains an issue, however.
“Really strong arm, really smooth, easy delivery,” Herman said. “Gets off-balance at times with his feet. A lot of accuracy issues start from the hips down so as long as he keeps his weight distribution good, his hips good, his feet in the right place, has a chance to be as good a passer as I’ve coached in terms of accuracy plus arm strength. That’s a big if, if we can keep the muscle-memory intact and keep his feet underneath him at all times.”
Jones has rushed for an average of 7.9 yards over 26 carries and provides Ohio State with another big, bruising rusher against Wisconsin.
“He’s a big dude and pretty fast for that size,” Herman said. “Probably doesn’t have quit the same short-range change of direction that J.T. has, but long-range speed and the ability to kind of open it up and stride. He’s pretty fast. You guys have all seen him run the football because a lot of times when he does get in that’s all that we’re going to do at that point in the game.
“I’m excited to see what he can do. I think he’s got a chance to be pretty effective about it.”
Herman said Jones lost the starting job to Barrett through no “deficiency on Cardale’s part.” The offense simply moved better with the Texan under center. After losing the battle, Jones did not pout publically or being disengaged from the team. That is why Herman is confident Jones will be ready on Saturday.
“Had he gone in the tank and been reclusive and unresponsive I would have been pretty nervous about this week,” Herman said. The fact is he prepared each week as if he was the starting quarterback. We’ve got to get him ready, we’ve got accelerate the learning curve a little bit.”
Senior tight end Jeff Heuerman met with the media Wednesday night after Jones led the No. 1 offense for another practice.
“Getting the timing down with the receivers, I think it’s the most important thing. We’ve worked on that a little extra this week,” Heuerman said. “We’re just getting ready to go. I don’t have any doubts that he’s going to be fully mentally prepared for this game. I know our coaches and I know how they grind. He’s going to know everything he needs to know. They’re going to put him in the best situation to succeed. It’ll be fun to watch.”