Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 15, 2015

Coming off a stunning three-game run that saw him quarterback Ohio State to three of the program?s biggest wins in the last decade including a triumph in the national title game on Monday, Cardale Jones has opted to remain in school.

Jones? rise to prominence has been one for the ages, sparking speculation he would turn pro despite limited experience. The redshirt sophomore announced today at a press conference he would return to Columbus, where there will be a crowded quarterback field in 2015.

Relegated to third string, Jones quickly rose up the ranks as Ohio State quarterbacks suffered injuries in 2014. First, Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury in August. Next, J.T. Barrett broke an ankle in the regular-season finale vs. Michigan. That created a chance for Jones. And the 6-5, 250-pound Cleveland native seized it en route to becoming college football?s most unlikely star of 2014.

Jones has just three career starts-but he was spectacularly successful. He led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 win vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, hitting 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards with three touchdowns. He followed that by completing 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception to go with 43 yards rushing in a 42-35 win vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Jones capped his season by hitting 16-of-23 attempts for 242 yards with a touchdown and pick with 38 yards rushing in a 42-20 victory vs. Oregon in the national title game.

Add it all up, and Jones completed 56-of-92 passes (60.9 percent) for 860 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions along with 296 yards rushing with a TD this past season.

Jones? stock probably never will be higher. Still, he has opted to come back to Ohio State. Can he live up to the standard he set in 2014? First, he has to win the job. There?s a chance Jones could end up back where he started 2014: as a third-stringer.

Miller, Barrett and Jones all will be back in 2015, creating a crowded quarterback situation for Ohio State. How will it all sort out for a loaded Buckeye squad that should be the preseason No. 1 team? Will the situation under center develop into a divisive force or a distraction?

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had compared Jones to a ?raw Ben Roethlisberger,? the 11th pick in the 2004 draft who has gone on to be a two-time Super Bowl champ with the Steelers. Others think Jones could be the next JaMarcus Russell, who has gone down as one of the most colossal busts in NFL history. Russell was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the Raiders and was out of the league in three seasons.

Jones? turn at the pros can wait for now, as he tries to help OSU repeat as national champions.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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