Tag Archives: Cardale Jones

Smackdown Fridays: Houston Dooms Oklahoma’s Playoff Run Far Sooner than Expected

In the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for one Group of 5 team to assert its dominance over a Power 5 foe, rest assured that team will probably be the Houston Cougars. It’s the circle of life. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

After Houston’s comfortable 38-24 victory over #12 Florida State in last season’s Peach Bowl, who’s to say the Cougars can’t hang with the big boys? Critics may cherry-pick their easy schedule or a narrow victory here and there to excuse the program’s 2015 success, but Houston has a prime opportunity to prove those critics wrong. To open the season, the Cougars face Oklahoma.

I have some news for you: Oklahoma is overrated as hell.

Don’t worry, it isn’t just Oklahoma. It’s the entire Big 12. After the conference faithful finally finished whining about being (rightfully) excluded from the College Football Playoff, it seems it’s destined to happen again. The Sooners seem to be the conference’s best bet to clinch a berth, but I have serious concerns.  This Saturday, expect those concerns to become realities. Oklahoma is begging for an upset.

Assuredly, there are Sooner die-hards and Big 12 buffs reading this and foaming at the mouth, fuming over my casual dismissal of one of college football’s premier conferences. Well, the truth is, your conference can’t be premier if the Kansas Jayhawks are in it.

The Big 12 hasn’t claimed a national championship since Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in 2005. These days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vince Young waiting on my table at Sizzler. For their part, Oklahoma hasn’t won a national championship since 2000. That was way back when the BCS was actually hip and cool. My point? Picking against the Big 12- or Oklahoma- doesn’t scare me in the slightest.

So I’m taking the Houston Cougars to upset the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday. And I’m doing so with gusto.

I’ll come out and say something nobody else will say: Tom Herman is currently a better football coach than Bob Stoops. Stoops has seventeen years of head coaching experience and one national championship to show for it. Meanwhile, Herman has been a head coach for all of one season.

Can anybody forget the Ohio State’s offense crumbling after Herman’s departure last season? Second to Urban Meyer, there was nobody more integral to that national championship. Stoops won his championship outright, Herman won his by proxy. Herman also managed to make Braxton Miller, then J.T. Barrett, then Cardale Jones, and now Greg Ward Jr. into Heisman-caliber signal callers. He’s legit. I expect Herman to flash his legit-ness and win the coaching battle in this interstate showdown.

By now, Oklahoma fans are likely loading their muskets and readying their covered wagons to come burn me at the stake, so I’ll go one step further. Greg Ward Jr. will perform better this Saturday than Baker Mayfield. Last season, only two quarterbacks rushed for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards. One was Greg Ward Jr. The other was Deshaun Watson. You know, the same Deshaun Watson that torched the Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.

The Sooners will struggle with containing Ward Jr. just as they struggled with containing Watson. The Sooners allowed a ho-hum 161.7 rushing yards per game last season, including 312 yards in the contest against the Tigers. Ward Jr. will be able to make enough big plays to keep momentum in Houston’s favor and the chips in Herman’s hand.

See, Baker Mayfield could throw for 350 yards on the Cougars. And guess what? It wouldn’t matter. Mayfield posted an impressive outing in the Orange Bowl, but even he couldn’t overcome the Sooners’ meager 67 rushing yards. With Houston’s eighth ranked rushing defense returning in full force, don’t expect the Sooners to do much better this time around. Forcing Baker Mayfield to throw might be a major gamble, so they’ll need a fresh secondary to earn their stripes on the largest of stages. Houston proved their resilience thirteen times last season. They can do it again.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard- the Big 12 is probably expanding. Add yet another chip to the underdog’s shoulder. If Houston wins this game, no further proof of their worthiness should be necessary.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean they’ll get in.

You know what? Let Big 12 heavyweights like the Sooners sit back and play politics with the futures of schools like the University of Houston.  Saturday night, Houston has an opportunity to score a larger victory far from the board room: complicate Oklahoma’s playoff bid far Sooner than expected.

E-mail Cole at cole [dot] hankins [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Five Late Round Picks I Got My Eye On

The draft itself is only one part of the draft season storyline.

With no real games to watch, football fans go mad and cling to what they can.  The combine, pro days, contract signings and training camp all keep the draft and its players relevant in the offseason.  It’s how we get through the long winter, or summer, in this case.

Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is complete, it’s finally time to hypothesize which players will prove to be great picks for their team.  Early picks are n fun so here’s a list of late round picks whose professional prospects intrigue me for one reason or another:

Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Round 3, Pick 22 (85 overall) to the Houston Texans

If it weren’t for J.T. Barrett taking his spot when he was injured, Braxton Miller might not have been drafted at all.  His inaccuracy severely limited his quarterbacking potential in the pros.  Moving to receiver has given his career new life.  Even though he had an underwhelming first season at his new position, there’s still a ton of potential here.  The Texans are awful.  If they’re smart, they’ll find ways to get the ball in Miller’s hands and let him do his thing.

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia Bulldogs

Round 4, Pick 14 (112 overall) to the New England Patriots

Had the Patriots had a reliable receiver last year, they might’ve been able to sneak by the Broncos in the AFC title game.  Mitchell (great name, by the way) is a guy who can step in and vie for that role.  He’s a possession receiver with great speed and elusiveness.  That’s what you ordered, correct Mr. Brady?  Mitchell has torn an ACL in the past and Georgia didn’t have a good season last fall.  Those are the only reasons he wasn’t taken much sooner.  Oh, and apparently he’s not just a dumb jock, either.

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah Utes

Round 4, Pick 38 (136 overall) to the Denver Broncos

This pick was an absolute steal for the defending Super Bowl champs.  Booker’s stock fell drastically because of a torn meniscus suffered in November.  He says he’s at about 90 percent right now and it sounds like he shouldn’t miss much, if any, of camp.  Booker can catch, he can block, and he’s always running downhill, picking up extra yardage.  He can flourish in Denver if given a real chance to chisel out solid chunks of playing time.

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes

Round 4, Pick 41 (139 overall) to the Buffalo Bills

With such upside why not see what Cardale can turn into?  It’s not like the Bills know who their quarterback will be in five years.  They’ve tried a lot of different guys lately but none have stuck.  Let Cardale learn from the bench, give him some reps to show what he can do, and maybe he evolves into a somewhat reliable gunslinger.  He’s got two things you can’t teach: superior size (6’5”, 250) and a cannon for an arm.  So, the tools are there, he’s just go to learn how to use them to the best of his ability.  Taking a flyer on Jones was a great move for the Bills.

Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy Midshipmen

Round 6, Pick 7 (182 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens

That’s right, Kenan Reynolds, the running back now.  The old record-breaking Naval Academy quarterback will be making the sensible transition to running back in the offseason.  This will be quite the experiment.  Reynolds didn’t take any handoffs in college and orchestrating a triple threat attack is a much different task than anything he’ll be asked to do in Baltimore.  Even so, his work ethic is unquestionable and his ability to pick up tough yards is unique.  Nobody’s saying it’ll be easy, but it’s hard to bet against this guy.

Photo Courtesy: Erik Drost / Flickr

Cardale Jones and the NFL Challenge

You may not know this, but I’m from Cleveland. I’m neither a Browns, nor a Cavaliers fan. For reasons that we’ll save for another day, I’m an Indians fan. Though I’m not a fan of all the Cleveland sports teams, I am a fan of people from Cleveland who make it to the big time. The next person from Cleveland who has the opportunity to do so will be Cardale Jones, but for him life in the National Football League may not be as easy as many think it will be.

There’s no secret that Jones could have entered the draft after guiding Ohio State to a national championship, but he elected (or was convinced) to return to the Buckeyes last season to improve his football skills. To be frank, it didn’t work out for him, and many think his NFL draft stock has dropped significantly since last season.

But, what is the biggest challenge for Cardale Jones at the next level? Is it reminding everyone that he’s matured since his infamous tweet of nearly four years ago? Does he need to show that his mostly untested skills can translate into NFL success for whomever takes a chance on him? Or, does he need to just show up, smile and hope for the best?

Honestly, I’m not sure what the ceiling is for Cardale Jones because we’ve seen so little of him in his time at Ohio State. I don’t know what NFL scouts are looking for and I understand that the NFL is a cutthroat business, but it’s really tough to see scouts make determinations about people as people when spending such little time with a person.

Is Cardale Jones the smartest guy in the room? No. That much is clear, but what does that have to do with being a quarterback at the NFL level? Nothing. Yes, quarterbacks in the NFL need to be smart, quick and have good arms, and Jones is probably good enough to fill those roles. I think if scouts, coaches and ostensibly the fans of their team expect all quarterbacks to be like Joe Montana or even Tom Brady, they themselves are being unrealistic.

Here are some thoughts from random NFL scouts recently published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“You can’t pass a talent like that,” said one scout. “If you’re going to bet on one, bet on a guy with all the talent if he shows you enough want-to.” Passer rating of 97.2, rushed for 617 yards. “Kind of reminds me of a poor man’s JaMarcus Russell,” said another scout. “At least JaMarcus had some touch. This guy just throws the ball. His mechanics are all over the place.” Added a third scout: “Strong arm. Big, big body. Not the brightest cookie in the world. I worry about him when he gets money in his pocket. I just don’t know if it’s all there mentally.” Wonderlic of 25.

The ceiling for Jones is the same ceiling you and I have at our 9-5. We’re all only as good as our weakest team member. And while some think Jones is the next coming of JaMarcus Russell, nothing from afar seems to indicate that.

When I see someone I’ve never met like Cardale Jones who passed up an obvious payday return to school to better his quarterback skills by exposing himself, I see someone who has the humility to be the sponge of knowledge that’s needed to be successful at any level.

Do I think Jones will become the next Tom Brady, Payton Manning or even Philip Rivers? No, but hell, I don’t think we knew for sure any of those three would be as good as they have been in their NFL careers.

In five years, what’s the football obituary we attribute to Cardale Jones? Well, I hope it isn’t written. I hope for his and his family’s sake that he’s still playing. Jones immediately beats the JaMarcus Russell comments by being in the league and having a modicum of success. He doesn’t need to be a starter because last time I checked NFL backups still cash large checks.

Cardale Jones’ ceiling is what he makes it and his boom or bust status comes in how he handles the diversity of being a lovable guy versus being head down in the playbook. Being a fun and lovable guy is great for the fans, but at the end of the day those fans want a high level of production and more wins than losses. But as my former Campus Pressbox colleague Ryan Isley said, “sometimes, enough is enough,” and “Jones needs to Step out of the Spotlight.

So, not only does Jones need to manage his expectations he has to prove all the scouts wrong who think he isn’t smart enough or good enough to be in the NFL. Seems like an easy task, right?

Good luck, Cardale.

Family first, then football, then all the other shenanigans.

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: MGoBlog/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: You’ll Never Convince me to pay Student-Athletes

Things are looking up for Maryland. In what many would have considered an off-season disaster, head coach DJ Durkin turned a potential negative into quick positive. Last week, I wrote about Maryland defensive coordinator Scott Shafer leaving the staff after such a short time and how quickly Durkin hired Kentucky’s Andy Buh to fill the position. Not only did Durkin hire a new defensive coordinator in short shrift, he picked up verbal commits from three impressive recruits.

What’s the ceiling at Illinois? Lovie Smith is a man of change. From the NFL to college. From early morning practices to late-afternoon workouts. From being part of the NFL contract process to dealing with high school coaches and recruits. While I have no doubts about Smith’s ability to coach, ultimately what will define his tenure at Illinois is his ability to win. Six years at $21 million dollars is a lot of money, which he’ll easily return to the university within three years, but how high can the Illini go in the Big Ten? As a charter member of the Big Ten and second largest university (Minnestoa) in the West Division, expectations should be high. The only other team that’s been consistently good since the conference went to two divisions in 2011 has been Wisconsin. With Smith’s hire, there’s literally no reason Smith and the Illini shouldn’t compete for the division title every season.

Wisconsin, why so cheap? I guess I understand Wisconsin is successful in the West Division of the Big Ten despite paying what seems to be the least amount of money for football coaches. I guess that shows – excuse me Cleveland Indians fans – that a ‘team’ can act like a small market team and still be successful even if it’s going to cause a bunch of turnover every season. I still have tons of respect for Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank for saying Michigan and Ohio State are overpaying their coaches. For the record, I agree 100 percent those dudes are overpaid. As well as Nick Saban. But to totally contradict what I just said, Wisconsin needs to step its game up. While they can hang their hat on Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl appearances, how many of those have translated to wins? I’m sure coaching turnover has something to do with it.

You have until Friday to order Hawkeye’s season tickets. I can say I won’t be placing an order for season tickets, but based on last year’s success and the outlook for 2016, I expect Iowa to sell a lot more home tickets. Two items of note – 1. Iowa State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska visit Kinnick Stadium this fall. 2. There isn’t a chance in hell Iowa repeats what it did last season. I’d love to be wrong about that.

Jim Harbaugh: the next great commence speaker. “I’m not a football guy, but I know a great educator when I see one, and he always impressed me as a great educator and great leader.” Says Jim Vail president of New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic school where Jim Harbaugh will give the commencement speech this spring. I guess if the NCAA is going to ban satellite camps because of you, then you have to take your message around the country in a few other different ways. One way is to promote yourself and Michigan at commencement speeches. The NCAA had to approve this appearance, so I wonder if Harbaugh will be allowed to wear anything with the Block M on it or if he’ll have to submit his speech beforehand to make sure it doesn’t contain any recruiting subterfuge?

I don’t believe anyone understands NCAA graduate transfer rules. Here’s a smart podcast from our friends at Hammer & Rails as they try to tackle the transfer rule and how it relates to Boilermaker hoopster Kendall Stephens. Later in the episode, there’s a deep penetrating discussion about Tyler Summit, who apparently good at penetration, but bad on picking the people he penetrates.

Big Ten coaches aren’t and shouldn’t be united on camp ban. I think a lot of times we expect coaches from conferences to be a united front. Typically, their wishes are passed up the chain-of-command to university presidents through athletic directors and that’s how things become ‘law’ in college sports. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz doesn’t want satellite camps because he wants them to take place on campus. That’s a novel concept. Coaches like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh (#duh) are in favor of these camps with varying degrees of restrictions. Is it surprising all the coaches aren’t on the same page? No. Is it surprising to publicly see all the coaches aren’t on the same page? Absolutely.

For the record, I was against the camps before I was for the camps. I’m against the camps in the way that Harbaugh used them as a means to take his kids from their spring break for a glorified recruiting trip. Now that I know many kids who aren’t going to play at the Michigan’s or Ohio State’s of the world are so affected by the change I’m against it. I’m never for taking scholarship opportunities from deserving student-athletes and if this means kids don’t have the chance to go exposure camps then this is bad for the sport.

No, Cardale, you shouldn’t be paid to play college football. You’re crazy if you thought I’d ignore this one. Cardale took to Twitter yesterday to voice his excitement at the prospect of being able to earn an income for playing football. I’m excited for Cardale and all the other student-athletes who will be drafted or signed later this month by NFL teams. It’s the culmination of years of hard work by the athletes, parents and coaches. The reward for missing summers with friends, tailgating before college football games, and spending Thanksgiving with dudes you probably don’t like. That said, I’m still a firm believer that playing college football is equivalent of an unpaid internship for student-athletes who gain on the job experience while earning and opportunity to play at the next level.

In fairness to Cardale, I do think his time at Ohio State has been nothing but a benefit and learning experience for him. I don’t know if last season worked out the way he wanted it to, but since his ‘we ain’t come to play SCHOOL’ tweet several years age, he certainly has appeared to have matured as a young man.

Isn’t that what going to college is all about – growing and learning? Even if you have to sacrifice in the near term to be successful in the long term?

E-Mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr.

Cardale Jones’ Season of Loss

I am a proponent of college athletes leaving school early if they are going to be a first or second round pick.  With the exception of someone like La’el Collins who has his NFL draft derailed with a murder investigation, even if the player slips, he turns into a “value” pick in the second, third, or even fourth round.  In sharp contrast, a player who has a first round grade and decides to go back to school plays the following season one hit away from never seeing the NFL or seeing the NFL at a price tag that is greatly reduced.

According to this NFL.com article, Cardale Jones would have been a first round pick in the 2015 NFL draft.  If Cardale just managed to be a first rounder and was selected say, 31st, in the 2015 Draft, he would have received a contract somewhat similar to what Stephone Anthony received, 4 years, $7.7 million, and a $3.9 signing bonus. Had he been a top ten pick, he would have received a contract in the 4 years, $20 million range.

Following his struggles this year with Ohio State and the loss of his starting job to JT Barrett, it isn’t out of the question that Cardale Jones has a Matt Barkley-like tumble in the draft rankings and goes from a first rounder to a fourth rounder, or worse.  If this is the case, his contract would be somewhat similar to the one that the Jets gave to former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, selected in the fourth round (103rd overall) of the NFL Draft.  Petty received a 4 year, $2.83 million contract with an approximately $550,000 signing bonus.

The struggles of Cardale and their impact on his future NFL career can be attributed to many sources.  The first and most obvious culprit is Cardale himself.  He was the one who chose to go back to college knowing that the starter who he replaced was coming back.  He also knew that he was part of a system where his physical skills were not used to their fullest.  Ohio State relies on quarterbacks who have speed and can get the ball to athletic wide receivers and backs.  The offense does not necessarily require a quarterback who can stand in the pocket and throw Vladimir Guerrero-style missiles down the field.  The second culprit is the overhyped stance that the media has taken on college athletes staying in college and not leaving early.  While it is important for most people to stay in college and receive a degree, it is difficult to argue that staying in college for another year was worth going from a first round pick to a mid-round pick and transforming from a player who supposedly would be a franchise cornerstone into someone who is expendable.

In the immortal words of Cardale himself, “we ain’t come to play school.”  In the realm of college athletes who have first round grades, these words couldn’t be more true.

 

Photo: Pictures of Money/Flickr

As Kizer Rolls, What Does The Future Hold for Zaire?

Last spring, Brian Kelly made comments concerning the quarterback situation at Notre Dame.

Kelly stated that Notre Dame had the most talented group of QBs in the country. The rest of the country scoffed at the notion that the most talented group of slingers resided anywhere other than Columbus, Ohio.

cardale-minn

Last season Ohio State’s third string Quarterback, Cardale Jones, was able to elevate the Buckeyes to a national championship victory with help from an absolutely loaded, and otherwise healthy team. This season, the Cleveland, Ohio product has been rather unimpressive, struggling when given the opportunity to start, before being benched for JT Barrett, last year’s number two QB. While many absolutely thought that Urban Meyer could do no wrong in deciding who would be under center for the Buckeyes. Yes, the Buckeyes have been unblemished, they have also been rather unimpressive, in part due to lackluster quarterback play for much of the year.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Kelly’s comments don’t look too far-fetched.

Brian Kelly might not have been faced with quite as difficult of a decision as Meyer. Kelly had to decide between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire.

During spring practice the battle was reportedly tight, and no decision for week one against Texas had been made.

Golson then made the decision for Kelly when he bolted for Florida State University, where he was recently benched.

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Golson leaving left Kelly with one quarterback that had experience in Malik Zaire. The extent of Zaire’s experience was playing sparingly in 2014 before starting the Music City Bowl against LSU. While that was obviously minimal, it was by far the most on the roster.

Zaire would continue to gain experience with starts against Texas and Virginia before fracturing his ankle in the third quarter against Virginia.

The injury to Zaire thrust DeShone Kizer into the mix. In the UVA game and his seven starts since Kizer has been better than Irish fans could have imagined. The redshirt freshman has compiled a 6-1 record in his seven starts, with the only loss coming on the road in Death Valley in the middle of a hurricane.

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Kizer, a native of Toledo, Ohio has completed 66% of his passes for 1931 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. His most impressive stat however, could be that he has Notre Dame right in the middle of the playoff hunt, currently slated as the #4 team.

Notre Dame certainly has a solid chance to find themselves playing on New Year’s Eve with Kizer at the helm.

Notre Dame still has to win three more games to have that opportunity, but if that goal is achieved, should Kizer be placed ahead of Zaire come spring football when Zaire returns from injury?

There is the old adage that one should never lose his or her job due to an injury, but one would have to wonder if that would apply here.

Yes, the job was Zaire’s before he got hurt, but he wasn’t exactly what you would consider established as a starter. Kizer might not be either, but he is certainly on his way to getting there.

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Kelly was quoted this past week on the Rich Eisen Show, saying that he believes DeShone Kizer is a championship level QB.

That quote begs the follow-up, does he still believe Malik Zaire is a championship level signal caller as well? The easy answer would be that Coach Kelly only recruits quarterbacks that he believes are championship level players. One would have to think that if Kelly entrusted Zaire with the keys to a team with playoff aspirations, he would believe it. If it has not already been determined, this could very well be a situation that is handled in spring practice.

It is also worth noting that the position battle wouldn’t necessarily just be a two horse race as it was last spring between Golson and Zaire.

Freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush might be the most naturally gifted of the three, but he would have to be considered a long shot to win the job. In the very limited time he has seen he has shown a knack for the big play and a big arm, two things that could bode very well for the future of Notre Dame quarterbacks.

Brian Kelly will have a big decision on his plate, just as Urban Meyer did this fall.

Meyer originally went with the National Championship winner in Cardale Jones, and later switched to JT Barrett.

Kelly could very easily have to decide between a National Championship winner and a previous starter as well.

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Time will definitely tell how this situation will be handled, just as time has already shown us that Ohio State might not have the most talented group of quarterbacks in the country. The position group in South Bend would like to have a say in that discussion.

 

Danny Cunningham can be found on Twitter at @DCunninghamCLE or reached via email at [email protected]

It Wasn’t Pretty, But Cardale Jones Did His Job

With the suspension of J.T. Barrett after a citation for OVI, Cardale Jones was reinserted into the starting lineup for Ohio State’s matchup with Minnesota.

With Barrett under center, the Buckeye offense was on fire. After seven weeks of backing up Jones, Barrett had finally regained his rightful place in the starting lineup and proving his worth as the starter against Rutgers throwing for 223 yards on 14-18 passing and three touchdowns. Barrett also thrived on the ground, running for 101 yards and two more scores in his first game as the starter.

The Barrett fiasco was good news for Jones, as he got the start against Minnesota while Barrett served his one game suspension. With Jones starting seven games already, he is not the usual backup.

Ohio State could have been in way worse a situation had they not have been able to go to a backup with the experience of Jones. Most teams struggle to find one competent QB, let alone two who could be starters at most schools.

Although Jones is not your normal backup, (10-0 as a starter going into Minn. game) he had not played well as the starter this season. Jones through for just seven touchdowns and also threw five interceptions.

His biggest issue was inaccuracy, as I’ve continued to stress all season. For Jones, it only got worse as the pressure mounted from fans and analysts calling for J.T. Barrett to be the starter as he eventually lost his job.

The talk around Ohio State this week centered around Jones getting a second chance as the starter, and how he would handle it. I personally didn’t think he would do much more than he’s done all season, play just good enough to get the win. Jones has struggled with accuracy for the majority of the season, why would I think this game would be any different after a demotion?

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Vonn Bell intercepts a Mitch Leidner pass and takes it 16 yards to the house.

In the matchup with Minnesota, it was much of the same for Ohio State with Cardale Jones under center. Ohio State couldn’t get anything going in the passing game, which also led to tight running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott on the ground. Ohio State punted on each of its first four possessions.

The good news for Cardale Jones, the Ohio State defense came to play and then some. Minnesota was also stymied on offense, as quarterback Mitch Leidner threw an interception to Vonn Bell that was returned for the games first points. The interception gave Ohio State a 7-0 lead with a little under five minutes to play in the first half.

Jones and the Ohio State offense used that momentum to their advantage. After another Minnesota punt, Ohio State got the ball and drove 77 yards for another score. Jones made two of the few big plays he made all game on the drive.

First, a 19 yard run on third and 19 to pick up a critical first down keeping the drive alive. Then a 44-yard pass from Jones to Jalin Marshall put Ohio State in the red zone. Ohio State scored on the next play with a Ezekiel Elliott 15-yard TD run.

Jalin Marshall caught a 44-yard pass from Jones for one of the lone big plays on the night for Ohio State.
Jalin Marshall caught a 44-yard pass from Jones for one of the lone big plays on the night for Ohio State.

Jones didn’t do much in the passing game, but did have a decent day running the football. Jones is far from the runner that Barrett is, but once gets moving downhill he’s a very tough guy to bring down. He also shows some impressive shiftiness for a man his size.

The game got close in the second half, as Ohio State turned the ball over in Minnesota territory on a Jones fumble and also missed a FG. A couple Minnesota TD drives cut it to 21-14 with a little over two minutes left. After failing to recover an onside kick, Ohio State sealed the game with a 38-yard Jones TD run.

The win wasn’t pretty for Ohio State, but it helped them improve to 9-0 in a week where there were upsets all over the country. I was fairly nervous about this game, as Minnesota is a team the Buckeyes beat by just seven points last season. Also, they were fresh off a game they probably should have won the week before against a good Michigan squad.

I knew the offense wouldn’t be as good with Cardale as the starter, but it was honestly even worse than I thought it’d be. Jones struggles with accuracy continued, throwing a number of erred passes. Some were too high, while some were under thrown.

For someone with such a huge arm, Jones really struggles locating the deep ball. He almost never hits a player in stride, often times leaving it short so that the receiver has to stop and wait for the pass instead of just running under it.

There were questions before the game if Jones had played his best game, would he be in position to reclaim his role as the starter. I wrote in my column a week ago that regardless of what Jones did Barrett would and should reclaim his job. I thought Jones would play good, but not great against Minnesota, and Barrett would reclaim the job against Illinois.

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Cardale Jones did his job against Minnesota, extending Ohio State’s undefeated season.

Jones finished the game 12-22 for just 187 yards and one touchdown. His best work came on the ground, as he rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Jones didn’t throw an interception, but the offense was stuck in neutral for a majority of the game.

A big part of what makes the Ohio State offense go this season is the option of the quarterback in the zone read.

J.T. Barrett gives the Ohio State offense another gear with his legs. He’s more efficient as a passer, takes better care of the football and is better in third down and red zone opportunities.

Cardale Jones did what he was supposed to do, win the game for Ohio State when his number was called while keeping all their goals within reach. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but a win is a win especially at this point in the season.

With J.T. Barrett back under center against Illinois, Ohio State will have one last game to hone their skills and develop chemistry on offense before the toughest games of their season.

After playing at Illinois, the Buckeyes play at home against Michigan State and on the road at Michigan. These games will settle who plays for the Big Ten title against most likely still undefeated Iowa.

For Cardale Jones, he may no longer be the starter for Ohio State, but without him where would they be? Braxton Miller, who hasn’t thrown a pass all season was his backup, and behind him was a true freshman.

Jones won the game, and for that Buckeye Nation should say thank you.

 

Follow Derek on Twitter @D_Woods21

Wolverines Go Trick-or-Treating

The Michigan Wolverines ultimately got the treat they wanted on Halloween night, but they had to work for it.  After a game full of tricks, it all came down to a goal line stand.

They were lucky they even got a chance to make that last second stop.  The Gophers came up just short of a touchdown two plays before which set up the short yardage situation.

The Wolverines luck continued.  Minnesota Interim Head Coach Tracy Claeys made some questionable decisions down the stretch.  It did not appear he had his team ready to snap the ball as soon as the clock started after the review.

In addition to that, not only did he elect against a chip shot field goal that would’ve sent the game to overtime, he did so by running a couple of strange plays.  A throwback screen and a quarterback sneak with a yard a half to go to the end zone?  Certainly not the plays I would’ve called.

Anyway, Michigan played poorly and probably should’ve lost.  Let’s take a look at why.

It took us until the eighth game of the season, but we’ve finally found a major issue with the defense.  They were somehow exposed by a lackluster Minnesota offense that found unprecedented balance and effectiveness.

Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner is not known as a passer.  In three years as a starter he had only one 300-yard performance before Saturday night.  That one came three weeks ago against Nebraska.  Saturday night he completed 16 of his 33 attempts for 317 and a touchdown.  I’m not sure anyone anticipated Leidner putting up those numbers against a Michigan defense that had been holding opponents under 146 yards per game through the air.

So the shutdown corners finally had an off-night.  You can live with that.  But when you’re not stopping the run either, you’ve got an issue.  The Wolverines continually got gashed on the read-option.  Leidner recognized that the defensive ends were undisciplined, flying down the line to tackle running backs whether they had the ball or not.  Whenever Leidner decided to keep it, he had ton of room to run.

The real problem here is that this is Ohio State’s bread and butter.  The Buckeyes will run that play until you prove you can stop it.  And if you can’t they’ll just keep doing it over and over and over.

I’m sure Urban Meyer was thrilled to see Leidner have some much success because now he’s got a blueprint on how to move the ball against the Wolverines.  With no disrespect to Leidner intended, Michigan should be thankful that it was he and not JT Barrett or Cardale Jones in the shotgun on Saturday night, or else the game may not have been theirs for the taking at the end.

I’ll bet Jim Harbaugh will have his defense practicing against the read-option ad nauseam while they prepare for Indiana next week.  If they can’t figure out how to defend it the Hoosiers will give them problems too, and the Buckeyes will bulldoze them.

In the meantime, Michigan turns its attention to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights whose only wins have come against Norfolk State, Kansas and Indiana.

Jake Rudock’s status for this Saturday is still in question, but he’s apparently farther along than Harbaugh expected him to be in practice on Monday.  You obviously want your best guys in the game whenever possible, but this would be the perfect time for backup Wilton Speight to get a shot to show us what he can do.

On paper, this shouldn’t be much of a game.  Then again, that’s pretty much what we all thought last fall before the Wolverines embarrassed themselves by losing to the Big Ten upstarts.

I smell some revenge brewing.

Just When we Thought it was Over, the Quarterback Quandary Continues

After seven weeks of back and forth, J.T. Barrett was finally named the starting quarterback for defending national champion Ohio State against Rutgers. Barrett played outstanding, going 14-18 for 223 yards and three touchdowns through the air along with 101 yards rushing and another two scores.

With Barrett in the lineup, the Ohio State offense was on fire. Against Maryland, Penn State, and Rutgers with Barrett taking at least his fair share of snaps, the Ohio offense has averaged 45 points per game. Here’s a look at the production Barrett put forth even before his stellar game against Rutgers.

One would imagine, with the way Barrett performed in his first start of the season Cardale Jones’ days getting meaningful snaps for Ohio State were over. No more quarterback controversy, no more wondering would there ever be one guy leading the team under center. Urban Meyer went with the guy that won him a national championship as long as he could, but the play of Barrett could no longer be denied.

Then the unthinkable happened. Early Saturday Morning, (Oct. 31) Columbus police cited J.T. Barrett for a misdemeanor offense of OVI at a checkpoint near the Ohio State campus. Barrett is a team captain, and also a player other players look up to. This was a huge shock to Ohio State coaches, players, and fans alike.

https://twitter.com/majiiinbuu/status/660473851126620160

Ohio State had a bye week this past weekend, which gave players the opportunity to get their mind off of football for a while. Maybe this wasn’t such a good thing for the Buckeyes players as I’m sure campus was pretty wild for Halloween weekend. After news of the citation was discovered, soon followed the ensuing suspension of Barrett for Ohio State’s next match up with Minnesota on November 7.

It was originally thought that Barrett might be subject to serve a mandatory two-game suspension in accordance with the Ohio State athletic policy. Luckily for Ohio State, because he was a first time offender, Barrett wasn’t subject to the two game penalty. The terms of the suspension were left up to head coach Urban Meyer, who handed down the one-game suspension.

Another surprising part of the story was that the man who has battled Barrett to be the starting quarterback all along Cardale Jones, (who will now start against Minnesota) was reportedly the one who picked Barrett up after the incident.

Cardale Jones will get another opportunity as Ohio State's starting QB against Minnesota.
Cardale Jones will get another opportunity as Ohio State’s starting QB against Minnesota.

As surprised as everyone may be by this stunning news, it is something that we see far too often. J.T. Barrett is a 20-year-old college student, one who makes mistakes just like the rest of us. When I hear fans saying, “how could you be so stupid,” and “J.T. is so dumb for this,” it goes to show that people on the outside are quick to judge others mistakes. It seems that throwing stones from a glass house is the thing to do for fans who only care about their team winning.

Sure, it probably wasn’t the best decision for Barrett to get behind the wheel after a few drinks when there are plenty of people on that campus who would drive Ohio State’s QB around for free. But who are we to judge another’s mistake, when no one in this world is perfect. We have all made mistakes, and we all been given chances to learn from them. To me, it is only “stupid” to those who believe so because it affects the team they root for each Saturday. When someone who hasn’t been known for mistaking mistakes has a lack in judgment, you chalk it up as a learning experience, punish them if necessary, and move on.

We know Barrett will miss the upcoming game against Minnesota, but after that what’s next for Ohio State? Jones will get the start against the Golden Gophers, and if he plays well does that change things for Urban Meyer?

Even with a good game from Jones, it should not change the fact that J.T. gives Ohio State the best chance to win. That was part of the problem for Cardale Jones this season. You would see flashes of the player he could be, but those flashes wouldn’t last long. It was one step forward, two steps back with Jones’ progression as a quarterback.

With matchups with Michigan State and Michigan looming, this is horrible timing for the Buckeyes. With the way Minnesota played against Michigan, beating the Golden Gophers won’t come easy either. It will be a tough test for Cardale Jones as he returns to his role as the starter, and I think it would take an all-world performance for him to reclaim his job for the remainder of the season.

J.T. Barrett made a huge mistake, one that gave Cardale Jones another opportunity to prove his worth. But regardless of what happens against Minnesota, Barrett should be the guy going forward, and is the QB who can lead the Buckeyes back to the promise land.

Michael Thomas, Ohio State’s Underrated Star

The Ohio State Buckeyes have all of their goals still in front of them after starting their season 8-0 (4-0). An underrated part of their success this season has been the play of fourth-year junior wide out Michael Thomas.

When you talk about the success of the Ohio State offense, there are a lot of names that usually come ahead of the Buckeyes leading receiver. Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller are the names that usually come to mind first.

With all the weapons that the Buckeyes have at their disposal when it comes to the skill positions, it’s hard for everyone to get the recognition they deserve. One thing about Thomas however, he continues to go about his business steadily performing at a high level regardless if he gets much credit for doing so.

Ohio State has lost two of its weapons who looked to play a big role in the offense this season. Noah Brown suffered a season ending injury in preseason camp, and Corey Smith also went down for the season after an injury in the win over Indiana. This put even more of a burden on Thomas to perform as the only true wide receiver on Ohio State’s roster.

This season, Thomas is the top receiver on an Ohio State team that has five different players with at least 15 catches on the season. The ball is spread around to a number of different players, and feeding Ezekiel Elliott along with J.T. Barrett in the running game will always be the main objective. Still, Thomas has proven his worth as one of the consistent playmakers on the Ohio State roster.

His numbers don’t stack up with some of the receiver’s that play for the more pass happy teams in the country, who also possess less weapons than Ohio State has at their disposal. Nonetheless, Thomas has been consistent, even with the musical chairs that has went on at quarterback. On the season, Thomas has 35 catches for 536 yards with six touchdowns. He has a touchdown catch in six of eight games this season.

You can only image if J.T. Barrett had been the starting quarterback the entire season what Thomas’ numbers would be. With Cardale Jones under center, the Ohio State passing game has struggled for most of the season, and things have run much smoother with Barrett under center.

“Cardale missed the throw,” a line I’ve said far two many times this season. Thomas will have a much easier time getting throws in position to make plays after the catch with Barrett under center. The Barrett to Thomas combo just seems to click, which is great news for Ohio State going forward.

Last season, even with 2nd round NFL draft pick Devin Smith on the roster, Thomas led the Buckeyes in receptions with 54. Thomas was labeled as more of a possession receiver, while Smith was the deep threat. Despite this, Thomas still reeled in nine TD grabs as a sophomore.

The nephew of former NFL standout Keyshawn Johnson, Thomas is a very similar receiver style wise. Johnson was a 6’4”, 212-pound possession receiver with ability to run after the catch, but not necessarily a deep threat. Johnson was also known for thriving in the red zone.

Thomas, who is 6’3”, and 210-pounds is cut from the same cloth. He is a tremendous route runner who excels at getting open on short and intermediate routes. He doesn’t possess next level speed, but has shown the ability to break a tackle and run away from the defense after the catch. When Ohio State enters the red zone, Thomas is spectacular at going up and getting the ball. He also excels at knowing where he is on the field, and keeping his feet inbounds.

Thomas is one of the better route runners in the country. Here’s an example of the great route running Thomas possesses, using a double-move to freeze preseason All-American cornerback Kendall Fuller in the first game of the season against Virgina Tech.

In this next clip, Thomas showed off his run after the catch ability. Catching a short pass, Thomas stiff-armed a defender while proceeding to burn the defense for a 50-yard touchdown against Rutgers.

As of this week, (10/26/15) cbssports.com has Thomas ranked as the number two receiver eligible for the 2016 NFL draft behind only Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell. He is projected to be a late first, early second round draft selection at this point. With a good finish to the season, Thomas could solidify himself as a first round draft pick.

Although his name usually comes after dynamic playmakers such as Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller when examining the Buckeye offense, Thomas is just as important.

The Ohio State offense is loaded with talent all over the field, but don’t forget ol’ reliable Michael Thomas when considering what makes the Buckeye offense go.