No matter what happens in 2015, Cardale Jones will forever be a college football legend.
From third-string to championship-winning quarterback is a Disney-esque storyline, made even more impressive by the dominating manner in which he disposed of the Badgers, Tide and Ducks. Jones didn’t just ride the running game and a strong defense to a championship, he helped carry the Buckeyes to victory.
At CFB Film Room, we’ve begun the process of creating the most in-depth advanced-stats college football site available to the masses. And while we don’t have the complete 2014 season evaluated, we do have the data from Jones’ three epic starts.
So while Urban Meyer tries to decide between his three Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, we’ll take the time to break down the stats you need to know from Jones’ championship run.
[note: our stats will not perfectly match up with ‘official statistics’. Because we have common sense, sacks do not count against rushing yards, and ‘tap passes’ do not count as pass attempts.]
The most eye-popping revelation from Jones’ three starts was his ability to throw the deep ball. Ohio State fans were well aware of his rocket arm, but no one anticipated the poise and accuracy he would demonstrate during their title run.
Of Jones 733 total passing yards, 415 (56.6 percent) came on passes that traveled more than 20 yards through the air.
Even more stunning, is the fact that of those 733 passing yards, the ball actually traveled through the air for a total of 546 yards (74.5 percent).
The Devin Smith Effect
Skeptics may point out that Jones benefitted from New York Jets second-round pick Devin Smith, one of the best deep threats in the college game a season ago. And it’s a fair point.
Jones was 6-7 for 258 yards and four touchdowns when targeting Smith 20 or more yards down the field. When targeting all others, he was just 5-14 for 157 yards and zero scores.
However, during his three starts it was actually Michael Thomas who led Ohio State in targets with 16 to Smith’s nine.
When targeting Thomas, Jones completed 14 of 16 passes for 147 yards.
In fact, Smith finished third on the team in targets, behind both Thomas and Jalin Marshall.
Combining the targets of Marshall and Thomas, Jones was 22-29 for 283 yards.
Jones also impressed with his ability to handle pressure.
While he was pressured on 41 of his 90 total dropbacks, Jones took just one more sack under pressure than he threw touchdown passes (four to three).
In total, Jones completed 16 of 29 passes under duress for 293 yards, three scores and one interception.
Unlike most college quarterbacks sensing a collapsing pocket, Jones didn’t immediately tuck and run (impressive considering his size and running ability—not to mention inexperience). Of his 41 dropbacks under pressure, only seven times did Jones take off running (for 72 yards and a touchdown).
Additionally, of his 29 attempts under pressure, 18 came while still standing in the pocket (12-18, three touchdowns, one interception).
Jones also didn’t immediately look for his check-down option. While under pressure, Jones was 7-12 for 232 yards and two touchdowns when targeting receivers at least 10 yards down the field.
The Running Game
While Jones made it clear that he is a pocket passer first (51 of his 90 dropbacks resulted in a pass attempt from the pocket), his legs pose a legitimate threat to opposing defenses.
Jones carried the ball 39 times for 156 yards and two scores—impressive numbers to be sure, but the details get even better.
The pounding Jones put on opposing defenses was astounding, as he picked up 119 yards after contact (3.1 YAC per attempt) and forced 12 missed tackles (roughly one every three rushing attempts).
So Who Does Urban Choose?
Can he really go wrong? While Jones’ impressive finish certainly swung a great deal of momentum in his favor, it’s not hard to imagine J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller posting similar stats.
It’s a tough decision and everyone undoubtedly has their opinion. The only thing we can say is, if Meyer chooses Jones, he offers an intriguing blend of poise, arm strength and mobility that would wreak havoc on opposing Big Ten defenses.