NCAA Football News
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The merits of Jim Harbaugh's attention-grabbing first four months as Michigan's head coach depends on who you talk to.
Fans of the Wolverines see a coach creating a buzz around a program in desperate need of just that. Rivals seem to see nothing more than an empty threat coming in the form of guest appearances at spring training and courtside pizza at basketball games.
But while the value of Harbaugh's celebrity-like offseason is up for debate, this much is not: The former San Francisco 49ers head coach has owned college football Twitter for the past four months.
Or at least he did.
And perhaps fittingly, the biggest threat to Harbaugh's 140-characters-or-less crown comes from his renewed archrival.
Cardale Jones might not be Ohio State's starting quarterback when Harbaugh gets his first shot at the Buckeyes since taking the field as the Wolverines signal-caller in the 1986 edition of "The Game," as Jones still has to beat out J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller this summer in order to retain his starting status. But that hasn't stopped Jones from basking in the limelight of the Buckeyes' run to the national championship last season, with much of his celebrating playing out right in front of his 173,000-plus followers.
Formerly best known for one of his ill-advised tweets, Jones has become a Twitter superstar since leading his team to three consecutive postseason wins at the end of the 2014 season, specifically within the last week. It started last Friday when Jones, currently entrenched in an unprecedented quarterback competition, sent shockwaves through the Twittersphere when he "announced" that he would be transferring to Akron:
Jones followed up his announcement—which came complete with an avatar change to the Zips logo—with two more pro-Akron tweets as the college football world held its collective breath.
Eight minutes later, the 6'5", 250-pound quarterback let the rest of the world in on his joke:
Whether Jones' faux transfer was received as well by Urban Meyer as it was his fans remains unclear, but this was the national champion quarterback at his best. Uncaring of what anybody thought, Jones realized the power he has at his fingertips and played with it, as fans and reporters alike hung onto his every tweet.
Jones' big week didn't stop there, however, as he spent the weekend tweeting about the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, his former teammates who were drafted and one of his favorite subjects—Chipotle:
After showing off a sweet customized phone case, Jones then took his Twitter game to the next level, engaging in a public feud with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. Whether the Jones-Noah beef is actually a two-sided affair remains unclear, but here are the details.
As Jones and his OSU teammates were honored on the court during a timeout in Wednesday night's Eastern Conference semifinals matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Noah's Bulls, Jones took to the microphone to encourage his hometown Cavs to "bring another championship to Ohio." An alum of Florida, Noah took issue with the Buckeyes' presence, according to 92.3 The Fan's Anthony Lima:
While Noah denied saying anything about the Ohio State quarterback, Jones took notice. And never one to back down, he responded—via Twitter:
Already in the good graces of Cavs fans after taking on one of their most hated rivals, the Rock and Roll City native then turned his attention to baseball. After Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott threw out the first pitch for his hometown St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, Jones let the Cleveland Indians know that he wouldn't mind being honored in a similar fashion:
The Indians, to their credit, noticed and responded, perhaps sensing an opportunity to fill Progressive Field:
In fairness to Harbaugh, he isn't exactly riding quietly into the night, posting a selfie with first lady Michelle Obama and pop star Ciara, before bemoaning ESPN College GameDay's recent personnel moves with some rather choice words in the last week alone:
But while Harbaugh's Twitter remains a must-follow, it's paled in comparison as of late to the account of his rival's quarterback. Especially in a sport that can so often be devoid of personality, Jones' willingness to embrace his sudden celebrity has provided some much-needed entertainment in the dog days of this offseason.
Like Harbaugh, the merits of Jones' personality are still unclear, as it remains to be seen whether or not having public opinion on his side will aid him in this summer's quarterback competition. The Buckeye faithful will undoubtedly be satisfied with any of the three signal-caller options Meyer settles on for the upcoming season, but neither Barrett nor Miller have connected with their fanbase in a fashion similar to Jones.
For now, however, Ohio State fans—like their Michigan counterparts—should just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Jones and Harbaugh each seem to be.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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