Few prospects have had as interesting of a collegiate career as Cardale Jones. He entered the 2014 season as Ohio State’s 3rd string quarterback, only to later lead them through the college football playoff for a national championship. Yet, in 2015, Jones was not able to hold onto the starting quarterback job for about half the year. Despite his snap count being cut back, Jones still delivered a handful of great throws throughout his 2015 campaign.
*Throws are in no particular order*
This is the sort of outrageous throws that an NFL team will get from Jones. The risk factor on a throw like this is incredibly high, but so was the reward factor, and Jones is always one to go for the big play. Though, before the throw itself, Jones did a wonderful job of getting himself out of the way of pressure. He had the time to square his shoulders better than he did, but the ball got where it needed to be regardless. Jones saw that the only was his receiver could win this play was if he lead the throw back to the middle of the end zone. Jones did just that and, against all odds, touchdown Buckeyes.
Corner routes are always tough because the boundary acts as a pseudo defender. Though the boundary is not going to make a play on the ball, the passer must still be aware of it. Virginia Tech took away all of the underneath routes on this play and begged Jones to beat them down the field. That is quite a bold strategy to roll with considering Jones’s ability down the field and is a strategy that backfired on the Hokies. Jones directed his attention down the field as soon as he saw all of his other options had been covered and placed the ball in spot that allowed Braxton Miller to keep his stride but also not run himself out of bounds. Miller’s athleticism took care of the rest.
This play is much less a testament to incredible throwing ability than it is Jones’s ability to turn nothing into something. The play is doomed almost immediately as a Virginia Tech defensive tackle charges through Ohio State’s center. Without noticeable panic, Jones pulls the ball down and rolls to his left. Once he gets near the boundary, a swarm of defenders rushes at him. Still, Jones does not panic. He notices a player wide open down the field and, instead of taking the sack, Jones makes a swift move to get the ball into his throwing hand and goes for the jump pass. Once again, Jones defied all the odds and created an incredible play.
There is nothing outwardly amusing about this play, but it looks pretty. Jones executes the play just as it was drawn up. Instead of showing his hand early, Jones opens to his left and pumps his arm to clear out the defenders that would have otherwise been creeping underneath his intended throw. After clearing them out of his way, Jones had a clear path to make a deep throw and went for it. Considering deep passing is one of Jones’s best qualities, it is no surprise he hit this throw on the money.
This is a simple end zone fade, but these throws require a bit more nuance than it appears. The passer has to find the perfect balance between hang time and velocity. A pass thrown with too much under it will soar out of bounds, while a pass thrown too much on a line will surely hit the defender’s back, if not much worse. Jones fits the ball into a space that only his receiver can leap to reach, giving the Buckeyes an insurmountable lead (by Minnesota standards, at least).