One led the team on an unbelievable three-game stretch that culminated in winning the inaugural College Football Championship trophy.
The other was making a strong case for being a Heisman Trophy finalist before a gruesome injury in the final game of the regular season…
We are only days away from the start of the 2015 college football season and while many teams have made it known who will be leading their team at the quarterback position, the No.1 team in the nation, The Ohio State Buckeyes still haven’t let the public know if Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett will be under center at Lane Stadium as they travel to Blacksburg, VA to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies on Labor Day night.
There are many factors that go into this decision and the fact that Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer still has yet to make the decision public is quite genius. For one you force the Hokies to have to prepare for both quarterbacks — and while they both share some similarities they are still quite different. Two, because both quarterbacks still are in contention for the starting role, you now allow more receivers to get first team rep practice. This is perhaps more important with the suspension of receivers Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson as well as the season ending injury to sophomore receiver Noah Brown.
Prior to last season, that is what we knew Cardale Jones best for, and while he has changed his tune on the importance of education, he didn’t have many supporters on his side. That was until the 257 yards and three touchdown performance against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game. When Barrett went down with the leg injury in the Michigan game, many felt that any chace of the Buckeyes winning the conference were carted off with him; but Jones proved that even though he may not have liked studying for class, he had no problem learning the Buckeyes playbook well enough to step in and lead OSU.
Why Jones should be the starting quarterback:
Winning breeds confidence and there is no higher pinnacle than winning both a conference championship and national championship within your first four starts of your collegiate career. Yes, it is a team sport but Jones has a better winning percentage than Barrett .100 to .91, and with the landscape of college football changing to where there is little room for error that small percentage gap could mean the difference between making the college football playoff and sitting at home — remember many didn’t think OSU would qualify for the playoffs until they dismantled Wisconsin.
You can’t teach measurables and at 6’5 250lbs there are very few defenders in college football — maybe even the NFL — that can match that size. We saw in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide how difficult it was for their defense full of NFL hopefuls to bring him down. He may not be as fast but not since Terrell Pryor has there been a quarterback in the Big 10 that has evoked this much fear in defenses — and Jones is far more accurate.
Jones’ accuracy makes his strong-arm — some would argue the strongest in college football — even more dangerous as he is able to make throws that traditional college quarterbacks only dream of. There is video from this year’s Ohio St. spring game where Jones is seen throwing a ball 74 yards in the air.
Why Jones may not be the answer:
Even with the size and arm strength, there was a reason why he was behind Barrett on the depth chart when 2014 started. Many saw his immaturity publicly and while Meyer has been impressed with the growth of his young quarterback, there could still be room for him to improve in that area off the field.
His size and strength can also be a curse as he tends to gamble more than traditional quarterbacks would. Against the Crimson Tide, there were some passes attempted by Jones that showed his inexperience — fortunately for OSU, Alabama could not take advantage when he did make a mistake. Jones also benefitted from being an unknown-known while making the championship run; how will Meyer cater the offense now that defensive coordinators will have time and tape to game plan for him?
To start the 2014 J.T. Barrett was expected to be nothing more than Braxton Miller’s understudy, but after the Heisman hopeful injured his shoulder in fall practice Barrett, a redshirt freshman from Wichita Falls, TX was thrust into the spotlight. After struggling against Virginia Tech, Barrett settled down and the Buckeyes offense took off. Over the next four games, he passed for 1,170 yards 17 touchdowns and had a completion percentage of 72%, and proved that he was more than capable of leading the team. The signature win for him was the 49-37 road victory over the defensive-minded Michigan St. Spartans in which he tallied 386 total yards and five touchdowns. The win over the Spartans put Ohio State back into the college football conversation and it was all because of Barrett’s improved play — and the stellar running of sophomore Ezekiel Elliott.
Why Barrett should be the starter:
As quarterback you have to be able to lead your team, and probably more important that team has to want to follow you. Barrett’s teammates took a big step in showing who they supported by naming the redshirt sophomore one of the team’s six captains. Does this mean they don’t want Jones to be the starter, probably not, but it does say that they trust Barrett more. It’s not often that an underclassmen is given this recognition — four others are senior status and one junior status — so it speaks to what the young quarterback has accomplished off the field as well.
As far as his on-field talents he brings flare to the position with his arm and his feet that Buckeyes fans have been used to over the years. There were only two games in which Barrett didn’t rush for over 50 yards and against the Minnesota Golden Gophers he rushed for an astounding 189 yards on 11 carries. With the uncertainty at the receiver position early on and teams loading the box to stop Elliott, it could benefit OSU to have a quarterback that is just as much of a threat running as he is passing.
Why Barrett may not be the answer:
Coming off an injury is always difficult no matter what sport you play, but being a running quarterback that relies heavily on his ability to cut do we know if Barrett’s ankle is fully healed? He made it through fall camp, but that was without contact; what happens when that Bud Foster led Virginia Tech defense attacks him from all angles will he trust his foot to respond?
Coach Meyer has a dubious decision that many coaches would not want. Yes it seems exciting to have multiple options at the quarterback position but if the guy he chooses doesn’t perform up to expectations, media and fans alike will be second guessing him. He also must decide, is the starter on Monday the guy for the rest of the season — no matter what? He cannot turn this into a series-by-series or even game by game decision as it will not only hurt the continuity for the quarterback and the rest of the offense, but it will potentially cause a divide in the locker room.
It shouldn’t, but how much of this decision will be based on Jones’ NFL draft status. Would Meyer actually sit the guy that won him a national championship and derail him an opportunity to build a draft resume?
If I had a vote it would be for Barrett.
Even though Jones won the national championship, it was Barrett’s play in the regular season that put them in consideration for the playoff berth. And should a quarterback ever lose his starting job because of an injury… no… well unless your name is Braxton Miller and you decide to switch positions to keep your NFL dreams alive. And considering the issues at receiver, it could end up working out for all parties… except for the guy who ends up holding the clipboard.