"Jones doesn't even think throwing will matter that much. If teams have studied him, they know his arm."
- Pat McManamon, ESPN.com
Gregarious former Ohio State QB Cardale Jones got plenty of chances to talk at the NFL Combine, but didn't get a chance to throw, after a hamstring injury sidelined him for several of the event's athletic drills. It was a disappointment, certainly, given how many people wanted to see Jones' fabled cannon at work and gauge whether or not he's improved his accuracy in the offseason. A disappointment, that is, to everyone but King Cardale himself.
"I mean, dropping back and throwing the ball to guys in shorts and shirts, I don’t think that’s going to ‘wow’ many people when I don’t have any pressure," he said, according to ESPN's Pat McManamon. He's not wrong, really, but it does build the anticipation greatly for Jones' March 11th pro day. The hamstring should be healed by then, and there's no doubt that he'll do everything in his power to prepare for the biggest job interview of his life.
One of the bigger knocks on Jones as an NFL prospect is his lack of experience, which showed through a number of times in his decision-making in 2015. He's certainly not a day one starter; he might even fall to day three of the draft itself. But there are a few intriguing places he could land in the later rounds: Dallas and Pittsburgh both start quarterbacks entering their twilight years in the league, and there's a lot that Jones could learn in a few seasons behind Tony Romo or Ben Roethlisberger. King Cardale is even a Roethlisberger analogue physically -- both stand 6'5 and a little over 240 pounds -- and his game echoes Roethlisberger's in a number of ways (albeit being much less polished). A team that forces Jones to start too early might just force him out of the league, but a team that can afford to be patient with his development might just have a franchise QB on their hands a few years down the road.
"He was hard on me, but it was all to make me a great player. He wants me to be just as good as he was."
- Jamarco Jones, Ohio State OT, on Taylor Decker (via Bill Landis, Cleveland.com)
It's no secret that Ohio State is losing a boatload of talent to the NFL this offseason. Instead of a roster deep with seasoned veterans, Urban Meyer will largely be working with a group that racked up prestigious high school accolades but has had very little in-game college experience. Still, there are quite a few players on the Buckeyes' roster who seem primed to step right into starting roles for the first time, as Cleveland.com explored this week.
One of the most interesting probable starters is offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, who has been on the team since 2014 but has never gotten much burn behind a healthy, talented group of starters. Now it appears that Jones is ready to take on the role he's been groomed for since high school, when he was a highly-touted recruit. It hasn't been an easy road for Jones, and at the beginning, he and starting LT Taylor Decker really didn't get along.
"For a while there we didn't like each other. I was very hard on him and I don't think he liked it," Decker said, per Cleveland.com's Bill Landis. "I think it was good for him and he progressed physically, but I think more so he progressed mentally." That's great news for the Buckeyes, for whom the offensive line has been the cornerstone of their success over the last few seasons.
"Raekwon McMillan is a sure thing...the other two spots, however, are up for grabs."
- Ryan Ginn, Scout.com's Buckeye Sports
While it seems like Jamarco Jones probably has a starting job locked up (though where on the line is unclear, given JUCO transfer Malcolm Pridgeon's talent), the Buckeyes are far less certain how things will shake out at linebacker. Meyer's team is losing two of the most impactful, productive players in recent memory in Darron Lee and Joshua Perry, and the talent behind them is largely unproven -- so much so that a battle for the starting spots could go down to the wire.
Raekwon McMillan is a guaranteed commodity at middle linebacker, showing every bit of the talent that he was projected to have coming out of high school as a five-star recruit. It's at the strong-side and weak-side spots that things get interesting. Perry, the team's emotional leader (and one of its leading tacklers) over the last two seasons, could be replaced by junior Dante Booker. Per Buckeye Sports' Ryan Ginn, McMillan recently joked with reporters that Booker is already a "way better athlete" than Perry; if that's even half-true, the position is in good shape. Still, Booker will have to fend off redshirt freshman Justin Hilliard for the job, no small feat.
Lee's spot also has two major contenders: junior Chris Worley and sophomore Jerome Baker. Worley saw the odd snap in 2015, but lacks true big-game experience; even so, he's more seasoned than Baker, and looks to be the favorite to win the job. Lee and Perry were such unique players that it's impossible to pencil in anyone as a one-to-one replacement for their talent, but Urban Meyer has enough talented pieces to make things work in 2016.
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