As most people that follow Ohio State football know well, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones’ career in Scarlet and Gray did not get off to the greatest of starts.
Behind then-sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and then-junior Kenny Guiton, Jones sent out the now infamous tweet claiming his dislike for school.
Jones was suspended one game by coach Urban Meyer, who said Thursday that Jones’ journey as a Buckeye is not over just yet, despite the recent success.
“Cardale is a great story. It’s still in process now,” Meyer said Thursday. “He’s not the grown man that he needs to be, but he’s getting close.”
For Meyer, Jones took a big step in his maturity process in his first ever start as a Buckeye in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game. But it wasn’t the 266 total yards or three touchdowns that impressed Meyer the most in that game.
“The thing that really struck me is when he made a mistake during the course of the game … he looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I made a mistake, coach. It won’t happen again.’ I said, ‘Go back and tell the offensive line that,’” Meyer said. “That’s a good sign of maturity.”
OSU co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said Thursday that he too has noticed Jones’ development, more specifically as a quarterback.
“Cardale has come a long way in terms of the first time I watched him practice and throw the ball, to where he is at now — tremendous development,” Warinner said. “Credit to him and his (position) coach (Tom Herman) for the way he has developed his technique.”
Jones said Thursday that after the infamous tweet, he was able to begin his turnaround because of a second chance given to him by the coaching staff.
“The coaches gave me that fresh start. I never really thought about going somewhere else,” Jones said. “The coaches basically told me I needed to get my act together and mature off the field before I could be a starting quarterback here.”
Being the starting quarterback at OSU brings a lot of pressure, and Jones said he has relied on a core group of people that includes his brothers, sisters, mother and even an OSU Heisman Trophy winner and fellow Glenville alumnus.
It’s a relationship with Troy Smith — an influential relationship that Jones described as “weird.”
“At times, he comes off as a great friend and great mentor, and then he can be that coach,” Jones said. “He can be that hard-nosed guy out of nowhere. It is very similar to (my relationship with Glenville) coach (Ted) Ginn (Sr.).”
In his first start against the Wisconsin Badgers, Jones led an OSU offense that totaled 558 total yards of offense on the then-No. 2 ranked defense in the country.
Entering the Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff semi-final game against No. 1 Alabama, Warinner added that Jones has not yet reached his full potential despite the impressive first start.
“He is one of those guys that has a lot of talent and a high ceiling. He played well in his first outing, and he has really continued to develop that here in practice as we are getting ready for Alabama,” Warinner said.
Entering the game against Alabama, the Buckeyes other co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman is preparing to take over the head coaching duties at Houston, which was announced earlier in the week.
While Herman will remain with OSU until the end of its run in the playoffs, Meyer said he has noticed Herman has been slightly on edge since taking the job at Houston.
“Looks like someone hit him with a bat when he’s walking around here. A good bat though. There are bad bats, and a lot to go on with college football with bad bats,” Meyer said. “He’s a pro. We had a good conversation this morning.”
While Herman might be flustered, Jones said he doesn’t anticipate any difference in the way Herman will prepare for the matchup with Alabama.
“Definitely not. He is all about Ohio State right now,” Jones said. “He has a whole other team to lead, but that time hasn’t come yet. I believe he said in the press conference that he is going to coach these next two games like he is coming back next year.”
While Herman won’t be around next year, he, Jones and the Buckeyes are set to take on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on New Years Day at 8:30 p.m. in New Orleans.