I’ve become a big Cardale Jones fan, especially considering that a few weeks ago I had never heard of him.
But when you guide your team to a Big Ten championship, a Sugar Bowl victory in a College Football Semifinal and a national championship in your first three starts, you’re going to gain a lot of fans.
I like the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Jones even better today than I did last night, when he was guiding the Buckeyes to a 42-20 win over Oregon.
That’s because Jones, during a Tuesday morning news conference in Dallas, said he wasn’t ready for the NFL, despite all the people out there trying to determine whether he is or not.
In this case, Jones knows best.
“I mean, it’s very odd,” Jones said. “You know, I’m going to be starting three games in three years, and you know, guys play their whole career to have that build-up and have that motivation to play in the NFL. In my personal opinion, I’m not ready for that level yet. I mean, like coach (Urban) Meyer said, it’s a conversation me and him will have later down the road.”
Did you get all of that?
This is an athlete who just won three huge games and who looks like he could be the next Ben Roethlisberger because of his size, strength and throwing power, saying he’s not ready for the NFL.
We complain about spoiled, over-hyped athletes all the time. We wince as players with half of Jones’ talent boast about their readiness for the next level in whatever sport they play.
And here’s a guy with self awareness, grounded enough to realize three college games is the tip of the iceberg. He realizes he needs more time, more repetition, more snaps. He realizes he’s still prone to too many mistakes and that the NFL isn’t going anywhere while he takes more time to develop.
I hope Jones doesn’t become persuaded by the people who are bound to try and change his mind. He has only a couple of days to declare for the NFL draft unless he’s granted an extension because of the late finish to Ohio State’s season. And while I think Jones could become a tremendous quarterback – or even tight end – in the pros, it’s refreshing to hear an athlete with Jones’ ability say there’s still more to learn and accomplish in college.
There is a tricky situation when it comes to Ohio State’s quarterback situation, though. Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, the quarterbacks whose injuries made it possible for Jones to play in the Big Ten championship win over Wisconsin and the two playoff games, are also underclassmen.
Miller entered the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate before suffering a shoulder injury. Barrett became a Heisman candidate with strong play before suffering an ankle injury. And we all saw what Jones did in their absence.
It’s expected all three quarterbacks will return to Ohio State, though Miller’s status is the most unclear. Miller, a senior who sat out this season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder, could leave Ohio State for any other school and play immediately as a graduate transfer.
Logic says there’s not room at Ohio State for all three gifted quarterbacks. Jones will be a redshirt junior next season; Barrett a redshirt sophomore.
But whatever happens with the Buckeyes and their quarterbacks, it’s reassuring that Jones, who showed so much in Ohio State’s biggest games, recognizes he has room to grow. Not physically, so much – the guy is already a beast. Jones has a lot to learn about playing quarterback. With another college season under Urban Meyer, who’s to say he can’t be in the discussion as a first-rounder, or even the top pick, next year.
It’s wise to wait. But how many young athletes have the wisdom to match their talents?