COLUMBUS, Ohio — For two seasons, Kenny Guiton was arguably the nation’s best security blanket at football’s most important position.
Now, Guiton is preparing for graduation and a shot at the NFL. That leaves Ohio State with a big question mark — and a big opening — this spring while starting quarterback and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller is recovering from shoulder surgery.
Miller will be a senior this fall, which means there’s no time like right now for redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones.
Like, right this very second.
Ohio State is 10 practices into its spring calendar and Jones is holding down the No. 2 quarterback role, which means he’s the No. 1 this spring. That means more reps, more responsibility and more scrutiny than he’s used to.
"He’s playing like a quarterback at Ohio State should," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
He needs to continue that momentum.
"A year ago, he had a one-way bus ticket back to Cleveland," head coach Urban Meyer said.
Now, Meyer said, he’s "clearly" Ohio State’s No. 2 as Miller recovers and Jones and freshmen J.T. Barrett and Stephen Collier navigate the spring.
Spring football is often ugly by nature, a mixture of new roles meeting new installations and time to tinker. After this week’s first practice on Tuesday, Meyer said Jones had a "bad…really bad" day.
That he’s shown positive signs, too, has his coaches thinking positively.
"Cardale is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds and can throw it through that wall," Herman said. "(My message) is, ‘Use some of that, use the talents that you have and then we (will) develop the portions of your game that need to be developed.’"
He’s waited for this. A class of 2011 commit, Jones did a season at a military school after graduating from Cleveland Glenville High School, then enrolled at Ohio State early in 2012. He redshirted but stil got noticed for his October tweets that said "classes are pointless" and, among other gems, "we ain’t come here to play school."
"He was a guy who couldn’t get out of his own way a couple years ago." Meyer said. "Now he’s making progress in the classroom. You remember the famous tweet or whatever? It’s a different guy. He had to be a different guy or he wouldn’t be here."
Jones played in three games last year, all in blowout situations, completing 1-of-2 passes. He ran for a touchdown against Florida A&M.
He has the physical gifts — maybe enough that the tweets and the rocky start didn’t get him that aforementioned bus ticket — and this spring, he’s getting the chance to refine them give his coaches an extended look. Meyer and Herman wanted to make the most of this time without Miller, and Jones needed to make the most of it, too.
Next spring, Miller will be gone for good.
"Cardale has done a great job," Herman said. "He has done nothing to deserve (fewer) reps with the ones right now."
Jones needs to just keep earning more and see where all of it may go.