Winning a national championship doesn't vault you to the top of a depth chart, at least that's what Cardale Jones thinks.
The Ohio State quarterback who stepped in for an injured J.T. Barrett — who stepped in for an injured Braxton Miller — and won three straight postseason games to lead the Buckeyes to a College Football Playoff national title told ESPN.com in a story published Wednesday that he hasn't proven anything yet when it comes to his credentials for the hotly contested starting quarterback job in Columbus.
"We as a team and me as an individual get a lot of praise for how well we did in those games, but I didn’t even grade out as a champion as far as coach’s standards," Jones told ESPN.com's Austin Ward. "I haven’t proven anything yet. I haven’t proven anything to myself, my teammates, my coaches to label myself as a starter. That’s my opinion, my personal opinion.
"I’m kind of harder on myself than the coaches, but I was thrown into that position. I didn’t beat out J.T. going into the Michigan game. I didn’t beat out Braxton. Unfortunately both guys got hurt, and luckily enough I was prepared to try to take advantage of the situation."
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Many would disagree with Jones' statement that he didn't prove anything. If anything, he proved a whole lot about just how good the Ohio State quarterbacks are, that he could step in on short notice and do what he did in the team's three biggest games of the season. In wins over Wisconsin (Big Ten title game), Alabama (Sugar Bowl) and Oregon (national title game), Jones threw for a combined 742 yards and five touchdowns, rushing for another 90 yards and a touchdown. He dropped jaws with mile-long touchdown passes. He popped eyes with a bruising running style as he bowled over SEC linebackers. The guy is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds after all.
But a little humility certainly isn't a bad thing, especially considering that only one guy is going to win this job and that the other two's credentials are just as good, if not better, than those of Jones. Miller is a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, a two-time finisher in the top 10 of voting for the Heisman Trophy. His record as a starter is 22-2. Barrett, though, upstaged Miller while getting his first taste of college football last season as a redshirt freshman. He broke a bunch of program and conference records — many of which previously belonged to Miller — led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 regular-season record and finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
All three guys could probably start on pretty much any other team in America. This team will have just one starter. And though many think Jones should be the guy after what he did this past winter, Jones obviously thinks he still has some work to do.
"I’m working harder than ever," he told ESPN.com. "I understand that I want to be the starting quarterback of this team, but I know I have two guys in front of me who are working just as hard."