Cardale Jones: A Cautionary Tale for Quarterbacks Thinking of Attending Ohio State

OSUOverrated

Cardale Jones is a very talented quarterback. He’d have played at least three seasons as the undisputed starter for most power five FBS D1 programs.

In an interview with Cleveland.com, ESPN’s George Whitfield described his arm in a term heretofore reserved solely for discussions about Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco: “Elite. It’s rare. […] It’s almost like you want popcorn to watch this throwing session. I haven’t seen anything like this arm and I’ve been around a lot of quarterbacks.”

So, why isn’t this guy a consensus first round draft pick in this spring’s draft?

Well, let’s look at what the Ohio State Buckeyes did to prepare and showcase him or, rather, what they didn’t do.

Out of high school, Jones didn’t academically qualify, and wound up at a military academy.

The next year, he finally made it to Columbus- and despite being a year older than the other freshman, and his cannon arm, was redshirted anyway.

So, by 2014, he was a redshirt sophmore, but, really, by the end of that year, four football seasons would have passed since the guy was actually in high school.  In 2016, he looks like he’s about 30.

Let’s stick with his (defacto double) redshirt “sophomore” season, though.

Surely, Ohio State would be ready to give him a crack at the starting job?  With that “elite” arm and all?

Nope.  Third stringer at the beginning of that year- Third.  Stringer.

However, the football gods smiled on Mr. Jones, and, thanks to an injury to starter JT Barrett, Jones finally got his chance against #11 ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game (No pressure 😉 ).

How’d he do?  Well, Ohio State 59 Wisconsin 0 says it all.  Then he won a playoff game, and the NCAA FBS Championship.

So, you know, you’d think he’d be the starter in 2015, right?

Nope.  Well, not quite, anyway.  He and JT Barrett were in competition all off-season, and, last I saw them, they were splitting time against the Terrapins.  By mid-October, he was holding a clipboard on the Buckeyes’ bench.

So, how much have NFL scouts really seen of this guy?  He should be a first round pick, but, he isn’t, because he went to Ohio State.

Today, news broke that he’s got a hamstring pull, and can’t throw at the NFL combine.  He may not be ready for Ohio State’s pro day in a few weeks.  No last minute chances to impress scouts and GMs.

Going to Ohio State delayed the start of his NFL career by several years, will cost him several million dollars because he’ll be drafted lower than he otherwise would be, and may not have adequately prepared him for league play.

Whitfield, again, this time quoted by NBC from an ESPN interview: “There’s been two main areas we’re trying to work with with Cardale.  His footwork, for one, has been under construction since he landed in San Diego. Bringing him from the shotgun up under center, just the mechanics of coming out with the center exchange, the first step from under center, three steps, five steps, seven-step drops.”.

Gee, you’d think someone would have taught them those things in, I don’t know, the 78 years he’s been in college?

Great job, Ohio State coaching staff.

Maybe Dwayne Haskins should have thought twice before making the biggest mistake of his life.  It’s okay, though, if he works hard and gets that Ohio State degree, he should be supremely qualified for work at a least one internationally known establishment.

Update: A UPI article notes that Cardale is currently projected as a 4th or 5th round draft pick.

 

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ESPN’s Take on the Terps’ Top Game of 2015, and One to Watch in 2016 (Plus Exclusive Commentary on Their Commentary)

ESPN recently took a look back and then looks forward on what it considers to be the football Terps’ signature win of 2015 and what it thinks will be the game to circle on our 2016 schedules.

It’s hard to argue with Rutgers being the Terps’ signature win of 2015. It was our only in-conference victory, and our only win against a Power 5 opponent.

I suppose one could look at Maryland’s single point loss to Penn State, or only losing to Wisconsin by a touchdown, but ultimately a loss is a loss and a win is a win.

The Rutgers win might also qualify as a rivalry win, as one of our two geographically closest in-divison opponents, and a team that scored an upset victory against the Terps in 2014 with the help of former Terrapins head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was serving as the offensive coordinator of the Scarlet Knights that year.

One would like to think that we are above Rutgers’ level, but we’re going to have to do better than 3-9 and stop losing to them before we can even think of putting that one to bed. In the early going of the two teams’ tenure in the Big Ten, it’s an I-95 corridor rivalry.

ESPN cites the Ohio State game as one to watch next year, mentioning the way we admirably stuck with them in the first half of last year’s game. Oddly, the Dwayne Haskins thing and the Urban Meyer-DJ Durkin student-teacher dynamic is not mentioned, but you could figure those factors in also in making the case.

The flipside is its hard to circle a game on the calendar that’s not likely to be competitive. It’s a good one to circle if only to remember to get your antiHaskins chants, jeers, and signs ready, though, I suppose. It should be easy for him to hear it from the Buckeyes’ bench. That’s assuming he shows up, of course. Redshirts sometimes don’t travel. 🙂

 

A more realistic upset opportunity might be Penn State on October 8th. That could turn out to be, when we later look back on it, the game that either made us bowl eligible or didn’t. We play three non-power five teams in the first three weeks. Obviously, no game is a gimee (See last year’s Bowling Green game), but Maryland should be favored in all three matchups. Then later scattered throughout the rest of the scheduke there are three potentially winnable conference games against Rutgers, Indiana, and Purdue that could go either way. Win all six, and we’re bowl eligible. However, a loss in any of those games, or a crowded field of bowl eligible teams, might mean we have to score an upset elsewhere to get in, with Penn State, probably Maryland’s most hated in-conference rival, and whom Maryland beat at Penn State in 2014, being a prime candidate.

 

 

The Long Strange Odyssey of Caleb Rowe

Maryland redshirt senior quarterback Caleb Rowe probably expected to be a starter by now. A lot of Terrapin fans certainly thought he would be.

The calls to bring in Rowe got earth shatteringly loud in 2014, when CJ Brown was quarterbacking the Terrapins. Though 2015 may have made most of us wish CJ Brown, Maryland’s eternal quarterback could somehow squeeze in a 7th year, back in 2014, opinions were mixed.

CJ Brown could run, but he couldn’t throw to save his life. Though it was pretty obvious all along, by the time that teams like South Florida were stacking 8 and 9 people in the box on 3&5s (A heavy run-stop formation on a passing down from a team that really shouldn’t have been able to get away with that against a Big Ten quarterback with good receiving options), you knew that they knew that the guy seemingly couldn’t make a completion to save his life. Not only did they know it, opposing teams obviously knew it.

Even then-Terrapins WR, and current NFL star Stefon Diggs’ younger brother, and current Alabama commit, Trevon Diggs knew it, posting a tweet in the middle of a game begging then-Maryland head coach Randy Edsall to bring in Caleb Rowe.

Rowe has a good throwing arm, there’s no denying that. It’s not an NFL caliber throwing arm by any means, but he can get the ball reasonably far downfield at reasonable velocity, a skill that has eluded a lot of recent Terrapins quarterbacks.

Edsall’s decision to go with Brown was seen as an overly cautious coach making an overly cautious decision. Brown could run, and could in theory manage the game enough to beat the bad teams, even if he didn’t provide the type of juice the team would need to beat the nation’s and the conference’s top teams, or provide a come from behind victory. Believe it or not, and many people who watched the games probably wouldn’t, Brown actually set some team records at Maryland.

When Brown graduated, though, it seemed Terrapin nation was more than ready to hand the reigns to Caleb Rowe for the next year or two. They knew the 3-star pro-style passer out of South Carolina was probably not what people would consider elite, but they looked forward to seeing passes of more than 5 yards that didn’t land in the dirt (With all due respect to CJ Brown, who’s passes weren’t always short and didn’t always land in the dirt- that was just the way it seemed sometimes when we were struggling).

The problem with Rowe was not getting the ball downfield, but rather getting the ball downfield to the guys in the red jerseys, or whatever color UnderArmour had cooked up for the chameleon uniform wearing team from the state where UnderArmour is headquartered.

We all knew accuracy was going to kind of be an issue, but no one dreamed it was going to be quite the issue it was. Edsall tried to start the season with game manager Perry Hills, who also brought some leadership and guts to the huddle, but when your “game manager” quarterback is throwing picks and losing to Bowling Green, you might just have to look to your bench.

As it turns out, Edsall may have had reasons other than “He lacks seniority”, conservatism, or pure stubbornness for not starting Caleb Rowe initially. He’d watched the man in practice, and may have had inkling of what was to come.

In 2015, Rowe, who did finally get to play after Hills sputtered, threw 6 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.  Not a pretty picture.  Even uglier if you were watching it.  At least one of his interceptions came on his first passing attempt of a game.  Not what you’re looking for our of your redshirt junior quarterback.

However, in 2016, Maryland finds itself in a tough sitaution quarterback wise.  They do have two senior scholarship quarterbacks- Rowe and Hills.  However, as alluded to earlier in this post, neither inspire a ton of confidence as a solution at quarterback.  Both were big parts of Maryland’s epically poor play at quarterback next year, when they were statistically among the worst teams in the entire FBS at the position.

Gage Shaffer, a sophmore (or perhaps a redshirt freshman, not sure if the team tagged him with the redshirt last year, though he didn’t play) out of West Virginia, wasn’t rated very highly by scouts coming out of high school, and was considered a project.  Some people liked his performance at last year’s spring game, but that he didn’t get into a game last season when first Edsall and then interim head coach Mike Locksley were fighting to keep their jobs probably says something about his state of readiness.  He’ll get a chance to compete and keep on improving, as will the two senior quarterbacks, in spring practice and beyond, but it’s more of a wish and a prayer situation than someone we could confidently project right now as the starter from day one in 2016.

There are a few other QBs hanging around from last year- Shane Cockerville, most notably, but if they didn’t play last year…. Well, one wonders.

That brings us to the freshmen.  Maryland thought they were going to get 4-star Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins.  He committed verbally very strongly and started recruiting guys and…. Well, I’m not getting into that in this post.  Suffice is to say, screw Ohio State.  I hope Haskins enjoys holding a clipboard for the next four to six years.  He’ll be booed when he comes “home” and deservedly so.

But Maryland was able to pick up the pieces a bit from that recruiting fiasco.  Tyrell Pigrome, while short, is a dual-threat QB that may Maryland fans view as having potential, and who new offensive coordination Walt Bell and new head coach DJ Durkin have both talked up big, possibly in part to try to cushion fan panic about Haskins decommitting.  With the quarterback situation as it is, I can’t absolutely rule out him starting day one under the circumstances, I don’t know if the 3-star prospect is going to play at all, or ever start.  And if he does start as a true freshman, well, true freshmen are often pretty raw.

There is another kid coming in, Max Bortenschlager, who some services rate as a 2-star and others as a 3-star, who is a pro style QB without a great arm, but who is excellent at finding and hitting receivers in stride, and placing balls where corners can’t find them.  I see him as potentially an excellent game manager in the making.  I think he’s better than his rating.  But he is a game manager, his throwing arm will never make him elite.  And it’s hard to think he’ll be effective as a game manager as a true freshman.  Usually you need a couple years under your belt before you’re ready to manage games- because game managers are primarily about mistake avoidance, and you need a lot of practice in your offensive system and reading college level defenses before you can fill that role, generally speaking.  And, obviously, he’s not going to be a gunslinger.

So, that brings us around back to Rowe, and the question is, can he start for Maryland and be effective in 2016?  It doesn’t seem likely, but he’s going to have a chance to win the job, and there is a new coaching staff to teach him, and a new system that he might be better suited for.  In a sense, it’s a change of scenery without a change of scenery.

I’m not real confident that we’ll get much out of Rowe in his final year at College Park, but you never know.  It’s looking like we might have a half dozen or so quarterbacks in the mix, all of whom have potential in one respect or another, and Rowe might have the best arm of the bunch.  He’s going to need to look to cut down on turnovers and increase his accuracy significantly if he wants to win the job and play, though, and, well, we’ll see…

A quick uptempo Walt Bell offensive could cut either way for him.  Some quarterbacks throw picks because they don’t have time to think, which an uptempo offense would worsen the effect of, especially if you add to that the possibility that he’ll have to make a lot of option-reads after the snap.  On the other hand, sometimes guys have good instincts, and overthink things and get nervous and throw picks because they have *too much* time to think- something the Bell offense could conceivably cut down on.

My gut tells me that a senior transfer quarterback might be out best bet, and that’s still a possibility.  But Rowe will be in the mix if he plays well in practice.