After winning the national title and exploring his options to play in the NFL, quarterback Cardale Jones told SI.com he will return to Ohio State next season. In a phone interview on Thursday, Jones said he had a chance to be picked in the second or third round of the 2015 draft, but will come back to Columbus to “work on my craft” and become the first member of his family to graduate from college.
“The NFL has always been my goal and dream,” Jones said. “It’s literally right there in front of me, but I also have a goal to graduate. I dedicated to myself and teammates and coaching staff to be the best student-athlete I can be and to graduate. I want to make sure I meet all my goals.”
Jones’ return sets the stage for a fascinating quarterbacking conundrum at Ohio State next season. He’ll be the Buckeyes’ starter this spring, as both J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller will be limited by injuries. As of now, all three quarterbacks will compete for the starting job this summer.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer flew to Cleveland on Thursday and met with Jones, along with co-offensive coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck. They also met with Jones’ high school football coach, Ted Ginn Sr., at Ginn Academy. Jones said they all encouraged him to return to Ohio State but left the decision up to him. Meyer was elated with the result, as he values competition in his program.
“It’s great news,” Meyer said. “It’s better than good news. It’s great news. I keep saying it’s a case study of the human spirit and maturity.”
Meyer credited the people around Jones for allowing the passer to take hold of the spotlight in leading Ohio State to victories over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to win the national title. He credited Ginn; Jones’ surrogate mother, Michelle Nash; and his birth mother, Flo Jones, for the support they have given Jones as he struggled in spurts during his first two years in the program. “This happened because of the alignment of the people around him,” Meyer said. “This is because of Ted Ginn, Michelle and Flo.”
Jones said he didn’t spend much time with the Ohio State coaches on Thursday discussing the quarterback situation for next year. He entered the 2014 season as Ohio State's third-stringer but assumed the starting job after Miller and Barrett both went down with season-ending injuries. Jones finished the year 3-0 as a starter with 860 passing yards and seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also rushed for 296 yards with a score. However, Miller is a two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year and Barrett emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate before fracturing his ankle against Michigan on Nov. 29.
“It’s simple,” Jones said of the ensuing three-way battle for the job. “The best guy is going to play. Whoever works the hardest and gains the trust will lead the team. They’re going to play whoever they feel gives the team the best chance to win.”
Jones said one of the biggest factors luring him back is the chance to become the first person in his family to receive a college degree. He is a redshirt sophomore and could end up graduating as early as next year. “It definitely means a lot to me,” Jones said. “Just because being the first person to graduate, it will open up the floodgates for younger relatives to see that as possible.”