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Jan 16, 2015 12:22 PM EST

Cardale Jones' Decision to Pass on NFL Draft and Stay At Ohio State is Still a Gamble

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To the delight of coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cardale Jones is coming back for at least one more season of college football.

He announced his decision in a press conference at his high school in Cleveland, Ohio Thursday night, ESPN reported. The press conference itself led to speculation that Jones would announce he had declared for the NFL Draft, but it turned out to be the opposite.

"I don't know why you guys made such a big deal," Jones told ESPN after the presser. "Like I said, it was very simple for me."

Well, it was a big deal because Jones could have been one of the most intriguing quarterback prospect in recent memory. Given his inexperience, his decision was generally praised by sportscasters, fans and especially his teammates.

The sophomore has only started three games - the Big Ten Championship, the Sugar Bowl semifinal and the National Championship - and posted unspectacular numbers. But he won all three and showcased surprising athleticism for a six-foot-five, 250-pound QB and a strong right arm, earning the nickname "12 Gauge," which is a nod to his jersey number.

Declaring for the NFL would have been a huge risk on his part, because without much playing time, he ran the risk of dropping in the draft. But even as middle-rounds pick, he stood to make about a million dollars in guaranteed money. But playing quarterback in the NFL is about longevity and being able to claim a starting job within that first rookie contract.

Now that Jones is going back to Ohio State, he still does not have a guaranteed starting position, as both J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller appear ready to return as well. Those two are a better fit for Ohio State's spread offense, whereas part of Jones' intrigue for the NFL was his beyond ideal size and arm talent.

Now, for Jones' decision to pay off, he will need to win the Buckeyes' starting QB position, which he has already made a strong case for. If he does that, stays healthy, keeps out of trouble with the NCAA and improves on what he showed this past month, he could well be a first-round lock next spring.

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