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Ohio State’s Jones getting quite an education

NEW ORLEANS — If he could take it back, of course he would. With one tweet, Cardale Jones made himself sound like an athlete masquerading as a student.

“Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL. We ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.”

That was from the fall of 2012, two years ago. Or was it two lifetimes ago?

“That was an immature mindset,” Jones said.

His mindset then was to coast — show up late for study hall, blow off classes in favor of video games. Jones grew up in Cleveland without a father and with little structure, as documented in a recent Sports Illustrated profile, and he was on the verge of getting kicked out of Ohio State.

During a meeting the following spring, Jones recalled coach Urban Meyer telling him: “Get your act together or you won’t be here. Stop acting like a clown off the field.”

As Meyer put it Tuesday: “There was no breathing room.”

It would be cliché to speak of a transformation, a maturity with Jones, but it also would be true. He handled himself remarkably well at media day at the Superdome, where Ohio State will take on Alabama today for a spot in the national title game.

He talked about his long-term goal of becoming a financial planner and detailed fall semester classes in microeconomics and American sign language.

“Our education is the most important part of school,” he said.

You could say he also is getting a crash course in football, considering he has started only one game.

Then again, it’s his third year in the program and Jones has every physical gift: He’s 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, mobile and believes he has the “strongest arm” in college football.

Tight end Jeff Heuerman won’t argue with him, recalling all the damage done to his fingers: “Even in warm-ups, he is slinging them … it’s like: Jeez, dude, relax.”

But the Buckeyes have two obvious concerns: In an attempt to confuse quarterbacks, Alabama loves to mix up coverages. And Jones’ backup is H-back Jalin Marshall, who has not played quarterback since high school, when he ran the triple-option.

So how’s your arm, Jalin?

“A little sore from all the rifles I’ve been throwing,” he joked. “If I need to go in, I’ll be OK. But I have total faith in Cardale. He’s definitely the leader of the team now.”

As for Alabama’s defense, Jones said: “They don’t need to trick you. They have the top guys in the country.”

True, but they will try to trick him anyway.

“We’re like a chameleon,” cornerback Cyrus Jones said of the Crimson Tide’s defense. “We’ll disguise coverages and definitely try to confuse him — get him to second-guessing himself.”

What Jones won’t second-guess is his decision to stay in Columbus — even though he entered the season at third string. Jones credited Ted Ginn, his mentor and high school coach, and Meyer also saluted Michelle Nash, who essentially became his second mom when he was 15.

“All 18-year-olds are knuckleheads,” Meyer said. “I was more of a knucklehead than Cardale Jones. But I had the alignment of people around me, (telling me) this is the way it has to be done.

“All his guardian or high school coach had to say was, ‘I’m not sure they’re treating you right.’ Then he would be a (drop-out) statistic instead of a young man who’s going to get his degree from Ohio State and (won) an MVP trophy from the Big Ten championship (game).”

Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards with no turnovers against Wisconsin, giving Buckeyes fans hope he can handle a Nick Saban-coached defense that will have had three weeks to prepare.

When Jones first played quarterback in high school, he admitted, “I didn’t want to be the guy where if we lost people pointed the finger at me.”


“That’s the responsibility I want,” he said.