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Cardale Jones still plans to enter NFL draft, not return or transfer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cardale Jones' draft stock may have slipped after the Ohio State quarterback lost his starting job, but that hasn't changed his plans to declare for the NFL draft.

The redshirt junior made it clear that the Fiesta Bowl on Friday against No. 8 Notre Dame would be his last game in college despite the potential option of transferring as a graduate to play someplace else next season.

"No, I don't want to be a 24-year-old college student," Jones said on Wednesday. "I have one more semester of school left and that was my whole focus of coming back to OSU, getting closer to my degree. Two classes are not going to influence my decision of coming back to college.

"My loyalty, my heart is at Ohio State. I would come back and sit another year before I would transfer to any school. So no, I don't want to go anywhere but Ohio State."

Jones burst to stardom with the Buckeyes almost overnight a year ago, after injuries to both Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett thrust him into the lineup for a storybook run through the postseason, winning his first three starts on the way to the College Football Playoff National Championship. And in the immediate aftermath of those victories, his professional stock soared and Jones briefly considered declaring for the NFL draft before electing to return in part to get his degree but also to gain more experience at quarterback.

After a heated, back-and-forth battle with Barrett, Jones ultimately lost the full-time job and was part of a rotation. He then was passed entirely on the depth chart thanks in part to throwing just eight touchdowns with five interceptions in eight starts this season. But one thing he never actually lost was a game, going a perfect 11-0 for the Buckeyes.

"This year has been challenging, but it's been fun," Jones said. "You know, being able to grind and struggle with the guys that I came in with and the younger guys, it's been a good year.

"I really don't pay attention to my draft stock at all, because you know, anything can happen. But I think my life stock improved by getting closer to my degree next semester. That's 10 times more important than getting drafted."