Replacing a Heisman Trophy candidate is tough, but two in one season? For most teams it would be difficult, but the talented, third-string quarterback Cardale Jones brings an interesting skill set to the table.
Let's take a closer look at the Buckeyes' new starting quarterback and dive into his positives and his negatives:
1. Arm strength and velocity
Both Coach Meyer and Coach Herman have raved about Jones' arm strength and velocity. Coach Herman said today at the press conference when asked how strong Jones' arm was he joked, "Eleventy billion." Both coaches have touched on his "cannon of an arm" throughout the season and he exhibited this on a confident pass that fell incomplete against the Illini.
He threw the ball on a 30-yard frozen rope, accurately placed on the sideline in Michael Thomas' hands. Thomas dropped the ball, but it was a great example of Jones' elite velocity. He has the natural arm talent to "make all of the throws," which should allow Coach Herman to not call the game too conservatively.
2. "Can drive the ball vertically and shows good touch on the deep ball"
Coming out of Glenville High School in 2011, an ESPN scouting analyst noted his ability to drive the ball vertically and also put good touch on the deep ball as a major positive in his game that stems off of his natural arm talent. He put this on full display against Illinois this season.
On 3rd-and-10, Illinois showed a Cover 0 shell, which is man-to-man coverage with no safety help over the top. Jones saw a match-up he liked and he exploited it. He flicked his wrist and threw an effortless touch pass over the defender's arms, into Dontre Wilson's for a touchdown. The ball traveled roughly 40 yards from where he threw the ball to where Wilson caught ball.
3. Running ability
Standing at 6'5, 250 pounds, Jones may actually be faster in a straight sprint than Barrett. His reads in the zone read will not be as elite as Barrett's but he has shown potential in the running game in the limited time that he has seen the field. He is a very good athlete, with nimble feet for his size and he has the ability to run over smaller defenders. Coach Meyer and Coach Herman run a power running, spread offense which will fit Jones' body type and skill set. I would look for QB designed runs on short yardage situations, much like they used Barrett.
4. Playmakers and experience around him
Coach Meyer has echoed numerous times this season that Barrett was a "product of those around him," and the same will be said for Jones. Ezekiel Elliott has a full regular season under his belt as a starter, Thomas has been a clear number one wide receiver for Barrett all season, Jalin Marshall has been excellent in the pivot and he will allow Jones to take a breather in the Wildcat Formation and the offensive line has been solid since the Virginia Tech game. Jones has an arsenal of weapons surrounding him and a very good offensive line to protect him.
1. Game experience
Jones may be a third year sophomore, but he has only attempted 17 passes this season and 19 in his career. His snaps with the first team offense against a first team defense are very limited. He played the entire second half against Illinois and the whole fourth quarter against Michigan, where he went a combined 7-for-12 passing for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Herman told the media that Jones would keep a headset on during games, listening to adjustments and the dialogue between himself (Herman) and Barrett. He went on to say that for every five reps that Barrett would get in practice, Jones would get three, which is a pretty good percentage. Also, word is that Jones got both the first and second team reps in practice on Monday. Practice reps cannot replicate game reps but the staff has done well to put him in a place where it is possible to succeed when called upon.
2. Too much faith in his arm strength?
Like most quarterbacks who have a cannon for an arm, sometimes they trust it a little too much and try to force the ball into small windows. In his small sample size of passes, I noticed a dangerous pass versus Illinois that he completed to Michael Thomas, where it could have been picked off.
On this play, Illinois came out in Cover 4. Jones saw the cornerback on Thomas playing off and thought he had an easy throw on a slant pattern. The outside linebacker followed Jalin Marshall then broke off into the flat, which is his responsibility in Cover 4. Jones zips the ball behind Thomas but it almost gets picked off by the Illini linebacker who is late to the flat by a second. My guess is that Jones read Cover 4, (he could have read man coverage but the throw was behind Thomas, avoiding the linebacker) but he has so much faith in his arm strength that he knew he could complete the pass. Against a more talented and athletic linebacker, this would have been six points going the other way.
The play ended up being caught for a first down but it will be something to watch for in the future, especially on Thomas' slant patterns versus Wisconsin's Cover 4.
3. Leadership and maturity a downgrade from Barrett?
When Barrett was named the starter, the coaching staff and his teammates raved about his maturity level and leadership qualities. I am not saying that Jones is not respected by his teammates or that he does not have similar leadership qualities but after hearing how Barrett was admired by his peers, it will be a tough act for Jones to follow. Coach Meyer spoke highly of Jones' mental and attitude development in the off-season
Running back Ezekiel Elliott told the media that Jones, "kind of was a little bit of a knucklehead," but went on to say "He's changed a lot. He's matured a lot, and he helped J.T. lead this year. I think he'll do a great job."
Overall, the coaching staff, combined with Jones' hard work, will have him ready to go for the Big Ten Championship Game and whatever lies ahead for the Buckeyes.
After all, Jones came to Ohio State to play football, right?