Overheard at Ohio State's Sugar Bowl Media Day

Bowl media days are much like Christmas for reporters who cover college football teams: They come but once a year and offer treats often unheard of the rest of the season. Not only is there an hour to talk to players and coaches, just about everyone on the team is available, something that almost never happens. Here are some of the highlights.

Cardale Jones

Ohio State's quarterback said spring ball is when things changed for him for the better. That came as a result of an uncomfortable conversation with Urban Meyer, who told him pretty much shape up or ship out. Football aside, he couldn't get booted from the team because he knows the importance of finishing his eduction.

Jones said his favorite class is microeconomics and he'd like to be a financial planner when he is done with football.

Asked about the Alabama defense, Jones said he sees no weaknesses, but there are areas the Buckeyes can exploit with their weapons. Alabama's defense is not complicated, but Ohio State has to be prepared for some wrinkles.


When game planning for Wisconsin, the Ohio State coaches felt they had an advantage on the outside, so they set out to attack the Badgers corners. That is what preparation is all about -- identifying matchups your team can win. Finding those is tough against a team like Alabama.

Asked what he learned from his playing career, Meyer said not much. He started really gaining knowledge that would impact his coaching career when he became a GA at Ohio State for Earle Bruce in the mid-1980s.

He has a good relationship with Nick Saban, although they aren't really close. Their wives get along well, and the two coaches have a common interest in the topic of athlete welfare and the positive evolution of the game.

Michael Thomas

The Big Ten Championship Game was big for Cardale Jones' development. He was already maturing, but that helped him go to another level. Thomas credited Jones' success to a combination of both Jones' talented and the coaching of Tom Herman and Urban Meyer.

The turning point for the Ohio State receivers came with the way last season ended. They knew they didn't play well enough in the losses to Michigan State and Clemson and realized they had to be better for the team to reach its potential.

Thomas sees opportunities to attack the Crimson Tide on the perimeter. The receivers need to take some pride in taking on one-on-one matchups because that means they have a chance to change the game.

He felt like it was important in the Big Ten title game when he was able to help out Jones by going to the ground to catch a ball that was a little bit off target early in the game. Thomas thought if it wasn't caught people would just say it was a bad throw and no big deal, but snagging it gave Jones some confidence and helped him get settled in.


What we saw from the Ohio State offense schematically would not have been much different regardless of which of the three quarterbacks were calling the shots. The whole playbook is open for Jones, although he acknowledged that would not be the case if they had to go to Jalin Marshall at quarterback. He estimated if there are 10-12 third-down passes they could call for Jones, about three or four would be available for Marshall just based on what he is comfortable doing. He also noted Marshall does not practice with the quarterbacks at all but gets instructions passed to him from Meyer via Zach Smith. There could be a limit on how many checks Jones can make just because they don't want to overwhelm him with options.

A writer from Brooklyn asked about Curtis Samuel, and Herman said he has the best work ethic he has ever seen in a guy that athletic and quick. Samuel is very mature and wants to do things to make the coaches happy.

Alabama's size up front is a potential issue for the simple reason that running the ball is predicated on moving people to create holes and changing the line of scrimmage. Their depth is a big reason for concern as well because they can keep rushing fresh bodies out there. Ohio State will have to find ways to manufacture big plays because continually executing plays on long drives is not going to be easy.

The Crimson Tide tend to do what they do defensively. They aren't big on trying to confuse the quarterback.

They can use tempo in this game. It was limited against Wisconsin not because of the new starting quarterback but because of how quickly Ohio State built a huge lead. There was no reason to expose the defense for the Buckeyes considering how well they were playing.

Asked about similarities with other spread offenses, Herman said there are some with the scheme with Auburn and Oregon but those teams want to go fast all the time while Ohio State wants to change speeds based on game situation. The Xs and Os are similar in that all three are really two-back run teams that include the quarterback and use the run to set up play-action passes.

He has told Cardale Jones that his best is good enough for the Buckeyes to win. That was the case against Wisconsin and will be against Alabama, so he should not try to be someone he isn't.

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