John Shuman has flashbacks every time he watches 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones try to hurdle a would-be tackler.
“That’s the same thing he used to do for us,” said Shuman, the postgraduate coach at Fork Union Military Academy, where Jones spent the fall of 2011.
Jones entered preseason camp as Ohio State’s third-string quarterback but closed the season as a starter after injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.
Jones’ favorite target is his one-time Fork Union teammate, Michael Thomas, who has 50 receptions for 746 yards and nine touchdowns.
Analyst Todd Blackledge “said something about us on TV and – guess what – I’ve had 900 calls,” Shuman said.
“Not only do we have a whole mess in the pros still fighting for playoff money; we’ve got two guys in the national championship game.”
The Buckeyes (13-1) will meet Oregon (13-1) at 8:30 p.m. Monday in Arlington, Texas.
Recruiting services rated Jones as a three-star prospect (out of five) as a senior at Glenville Academy in Cleveland and his first of two official visits was to Toledo in late January of 2011.
He visited Ohio State one week later, committed to the Buckeyes, then enrolled at Fork Union. Shuman said Thomas met NCAA academic standards out of high school.
“He was so, uh, goofy,” Shuman said. “He reminded me of Plaxico Burress. Cardale was a grind. We had to smooth some edges on that guy, but it doesn’t shock me that he’s gotten to this point.
“He had the talent. The guy was phenomenally talented. It was just that his head didn’t catch up to his talent till, I guess, two weeks ago.”
n Buckeyes senior Curtis Grant, who starts at middle linebacker, played at Hermitage High in Richmond and was rated the No. 1 prospect in Virginia by The Roanoke Times in 2010.
Grant has started all 14 games this season and has made 27 career starts, all but one in the past two seasons. Grant is fifth on the team in tackles with 63.
Following Grant in order on the 2010 top five were cornerback Demetrious Nicholson (Virginia), linebacker Travis Hughes (North Carolina), wide receiver Quinta Funderburke (Arkansas) and defensive lineman Corey Marshall (Virginia Tech).
Funderburk transferred to Syracuse, where he caught four passes in 2013 and none this year despite playing in eight games.
Where it hurts
Word that Virginia outside linebacker Max Valles was making himself available for the NFL Draft came days after the Cavaliers lost recruiting target Brandon Wilson, a 6-foot-3, 238-pound defensive end from Winter Garden, Fla.
Wilson, who had more than 20 Football Bowl Subdivision offers, committed to Virginia in late September but took a recruiting visit to Indiana on Dec. 12 and committed to the Hoosiers last week.
Virginia football fans have had their hopes raised by such big-name transfers as quarterbacks Phillip Sims (Alabama) and Christian Olsen (Notre Dame) but none with the statistics of incoming T.J. Thorpe, a wide receiver from North Carolina.
“We recruited T.J. very hard out of high school and are glad to finally have him join our program,” coach Mike London said of Thorpe, who had 42 career receptions and once led the ACC in kickoff return average.
“He has a chance to come in and contribute immediately at both wide receiver and on special teams.”
Around the ACC
Five University of Miami men’s basketball players speak English as a second language, including Ivan Uceda, a 6-foot-10, 237-pound Spaniard who does not become eligible until Jan. 17.
Uceda had 29 rebounds in a game last year at Harcum College, a two-year program in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, but is ineligible for the first half of the season.
Uceda, 23, fell victim to an NCAA rule requiring a player to enroll in college within one year after his graduation from high school.
n Another ACC team with an international flavor is Louisville, which has a pair of 7-foot freshmen in Anas Mahmoud from Egypt and Matz Stockman from Norway. Mangok Mathiang, a 6-10 Australian, comes off the bench.