Cardale Jones’ efforts on the Ohio State practice field illustrate how spring football drills are about much more than honing a team for the upcoming season.
Barring injury, junior Braxton Miller will be the starting quarterback and senior Kenny Guiton his backup when the Buckeyes open the 2013 season.
But 2014 poses a different picture.
Guiton definitely will be gone, and Miller could depart early for the NFL — if he has a better season than he had last year. That would leave Jones, a redshirt freshman, and freshman J.T. Barrett, an early enrollee who still is on the mend from the knee surgery he had last season as a high-school player in Wichita Falls, Texas.
The Buckeyes are in the hunt for a quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, but Jones could be the one to beat a year from now. As a high-school junior, he led Cleveland Glenville to the Division I state-championship game, then spent 2011 at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.
Earlier this spring, OSU coach Urban Meyer said that Jones looked like a real quarterback “for the first time” on the practice field. And in Saturday’s spring game in Cincinnati, Jones will be the only one of the top three quarterbacks who will be free to run and be hit; the coaches will take precautions with Miller and Guiton.
It’s unknown whether Jairo Arrieta’s benching for the first half of the Crew’s tie with Philadelphia last week will affect his relationship with coach Robert Warzycha, but there seems little doubt that the player who tied for the team lead in goals last season was unhappy with the move.
Arrieta started 18 matches for Columbus last season and scored nine goals, and he had one goal in three games this season before being called up by Costa Rica’s national team for two World Cup qualifying matches. Dominic Oduro started while Arrieta was away — and again when he returned.
Arrieta was on the field in the second half when Oduro scored the Crew’s only goal against the Union on a tight-angle shot along the end line. Interestingly, video of the goal showed that all of the Crew players celebrated except Arrieta, who didn’t react at all and didn’t hug Oduro, who was nearby.
After the game, Arrieta said all the right things about wanting to regain Warzycha’s confidence, speaking through an interpreter, Crew assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren. But a Spanish-speaking source who spoke to Arrieta indicated he was upset about losing his starting spot because of a national-team call-up and that some other Latino players also were unhappy about it.
After Louisville’s Tony Cingrani pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Clippers on Tuesday to run his string to 12 1/3 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts, there was some thought that the Cincinnati Reds might recall their top pitching prospect after reliever Sean Marshall’s shoulder injury became an issue. Marshall was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday, but the team recalled Logan Ondrusek from double-A.
“Cingrani is the first call-up if one of my starters go down,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “ He still has to work on his breaking ball. We didn’t want to impede his progress in the bullpen when we’re grooming him for a starter.”
Cingrani went 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA in the minors last season, and he made three relief appearances with the Reds in September.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes the Cleveland Browns could select West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith or Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan if either is available at No. 6 in the NFL draft.
In a conference call this week, Kiper also said he thinks Cleveland might be willing to trade down to get additional picks, and that San Diego might want to trade up from No. 11 to grab Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson.
Kiper and ESPN analyst Todd McShay believe the Browns could trade down and still get Smith, despite Browns CEO Joe Banner’s repeated statements that he doesn’t expect the Browns to draft a quarterback in the first round.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who has been a free agent since the Minnesota Vikings released him on March 12 because he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut, visited Seattle this week and is said to be deciding whether to sign with the Seahawks or the Vikings.
Winfield, a former Ohio State standout, went on the market after the Vikings asked him to cut his salary from $7.25 million to about $3 million.
According to Larry Hartstein of CBSSports.com, Winfield allowed no touchdowns in coverage in 2012 and graded out as the NFL’s best run-stopping corner.
Another pay-cut casualty, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, was expected to meet with the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday after attempting to meet with the Baltimore Ravens, another of the Steelers’ AFC North rivals.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Detroit News that he expects the Big Ten to announce its new divisional alignment soon, and he said that “we’re leaning toward a significant change in the composition of the divisions.”
Brandon is intent on maintaining the Wolverines’ rivalries. According to an ESPN.com report, the East would be composed of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers and either Indiana or Purdue.
“What’s important to me is we play Ohio State every year, and it’s important we play Ohio State the last game of every year, and it’s important to me we play Michigan State every year,” Brandon said. “It’s also important to me we get an opportunity to play the other highly successful programs as often as we can, like Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern — all the teams we’ve had great rivalries with.”
Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.