Ohio State Buckeyes Season Review: Unknown Quarterbacks Lead Team


Nov 8, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) on the bench during the first quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first in a nine part series that will review each position group on the Buckeyes before taking a look at what the 2015 season may hold.





Miller: DNP (injury)

Collier: DNP (redshirt)

Well that went just as expected, right?  The Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback situation seemed rather straightforward.  After an off-season centered on the battle between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones for the right to backup Braxton Miller, things suddenly changed when Miller suffered a torn right labrum during fall camp.  Re-aggravating the same shoulder he had originally injured during the Orange Bowl against Clemson, Miller was out for the season on August 20; a mere ten days before the season opener against Navy in Baltimore.

Cue panic in Columbus.  The two time Big Ten player of the year would now be replaced behind center by one of two inexperienced and young quarterbacks; between them Barrett and Jones shared two career pass attempts.  Barrett had not played in a game since suffering a torn ACL midway through his senior year of high school two years previously, and Jones was consistently in Urban’s doghouse during his first two years at Ohio State.  A team predicted by many to be in the hunt for the national title with the services of Miller, now faced uncertainty.

J.T. Barrett

On August 19 Barrett was on track to backup Braxton Miller.  The young quarterback, fresh off a redshirt year, could anticipate a year of learning on the job behind the two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year.  Playing time would come against the Indiana’s and Purdue’s of the world once the game was in hand.  Circumstances would change a day later.  Miller was lost for the year on August 20 and Barrett, still only nineteen years old, was the new face of the Buckeyes.

To the fan on the outside looking in, the moment may have seemed too big for the Texas native; but according to his coaches and teammates Barrett was ready.  Offensive coordinator Tom Herman recounted a speech Barrett gave, after enrolling early during the first week of January, during Dontre Wilson’s on-campus visit.  “He goes on for five or 10 minutes on why he chose this place over others and he’s going on about winning multiple championships and what an Ohio State degree can do for you and playing in this system and for this coach and at this school.  For me to witness that, that got me choked up a little bit, because you can’t teach that. Or it’s really hard to teach a young man to be that passionate about winning and that passionate about making his team better.”  Keep in mind, at this point Barrett had been on campus a total of two weeks; he had barely even practiced with the Buckeyes.  Barrett had already shown himself to be a natural leader.

“…it’s really hard to teach a young man to be that passionate about winning and that passionate about making his team better.” – Tom Herman

The coaching staff began the season doing their best to shelter Barrett and slowly bring him up to speed; he only attempted fifteen passes in the opener against Navy.  However, such a plan was thrown out the window after Barrett, and indeed the entire Ohio State offense, was exposed against a Virginia Tech defense that dared them to throw.  Sacked eight times on the night, Barrett completed only nine of his twenty-nine pass attempts and threw three interceptions against the Hokies; all the while looking every bit of the redshirt freshman quarterback he was.

True to form however, Barrett refused to point fingers, instead responding with his play on the field.  Barrett would set new career highs for passing each of the next two games against in-state foes Kent State and Cincinnati, before helping the Buckeyes dismantle Maryland in Ohio State’s first true road game of the season.  Suddenly the wide-eyed freshman who looked lost against the Hokies was maturing into a solid quarterback.  It also must be said that JT benefited greatly from his offensive teammates maturing with him; indeed even just three weeks removed from the Virginia Tech debacle, the entire offense was finding its groove.

A solid outing against Rutgers, one in which he threw for three or more touchdowns for his fourth straight game, precluded a trip to Penn State and Happy Valley.  Apart from the Virginia Tech game, this was Barrett’s worst game; he threw for only 74 yards and threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.  However, Barrett would once again display his leadership qualities and scored one rushing touchdown in each overtime period to lead the Buckeyes to victory in hostile territory.

After playing a half against Illinois in a rout, a game in which Barrett was favoring a tweaked knee, the young quarterback had his finest game of his young career.  Accounting for nearly 4oo yards of offense and five touchdowns without a turnover, Barrett led the Buckeyes to a convincing win against Michigan State in Spartan Stadium at night.  What only a week before seemed hyperbole, JT could no longer be discounted as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

After throwing for 200 yards and rushing for another 189 in frigid conditions in Minnesota, Barrett would lead the Buckeyes to victory at home against Indiana; setting up the latest rendition of The Game.  After totaling three touchdowns through three quarters, Barrett would fracture his right ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter, ending a historic season for the redshirt freshman from Texas.

Grade: A

A Big Ten record 44 total touchdowns in 2014.  An Ohio State record for total offense in a season by accounting for  3,772 yards.  A unanimous First Team All Big Ten selection.  A Third Team All-American.  A fifth place finish in the voting for the Heisman trophy.  JT Barrett had one of the finest, if not the the finest, seasons in Ohio State quarterback history.  It is simply ludicrous, yet understandable, that he is not yet entrenched as the starting quarterback.  Barrett combines an accurate arm with exceptionally good decision making in the read option run game; his decisions on when to keep and when to give to the running back are elite.  While not a burner, JT also makes good use of his above average speed and running abilities.  The knock on Barrett is his average to below average arm strength.  He does not have a cannon for an arm, but has plenty enough arm strength to make all of the throws in the college game.

Cardale Jones

Cardale Jones is an imposing figure at 6’5″ and 250 pounds.  With those vitals Jones could easily pass for a tight end or defensive end; but how does a national championship winning quarterback sound?  It was that kind of season for Jones and Ohio State.  The product of Glenville High on Cleveland’s east side, the same school that boasts NFL players Donte Whitner and Ted Ginn among their alumni, not to mention Heisman winner Troy Smith, began his Buckeye career infamously.  Just over two years later Jones is forever enshrined in Buckeye lore.

Until called upon at the beginning of the fourth quarter during the Michigan game, Jones had been used as a late game running back of sorts; and in fact had not appeared at all in the three games prior to The Game.  In his one quarter appearance during the Michigan game Jones completed two of his three passes for seven yards and ran the ball twice for eighteen yards.  Spectacular numbers? No; but the poise that would mark his final three games of the season was certainly on display.

Cardale Jones was a mystery heading into the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin.  No one, including his coaches or teammates knew what to expect from the redshirt sophomore.  He delivered to the tune of completing 12 of his 17 passes for 257 yards and three scores.  Jones’ performance caused Meyer to reflect, and highlight the seemingly unbelievable situation, following the victory.  “Then, are you kidding me?  To say, ‘By the way, that guy right there, that tall kid from Glenville, he’s going to lead your team to the Big Ten championship.’”  The legend of King Cardale had begun.

“By the way, that guy right there, that tall kid from Glenville, he’s going to lead your team to the Big Ten championship.” – Urban Meyer

Against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Jones again rose to the occasion.  His 243 yards through the air and 43 yards on the ground do not begin to tell the story behind his game.  The poise he showed when picking up multiple third downs with his arm or his legs, and the leadership he showed to rally his team after falling into a self-inflicted 21-6 hole are exhibits A and B.  Time and again Jones stood tall in the pocket, often using his size and strength to fight off would be tacklers, before completing a critical throw.  A less capable quarterback would have folded; Jones was after all playing the feared Crimson Tide.  Instead he rallied an offense that ended up accumulating over 500 yards.  In the early morning hours of January 2, Cardale Jones was a single game away from cementing his legend.

In helping to lead the Buckeyes to their first national championship in twelve years after toppling the vaunted Oregon Ducks, Cardale Jones proved himself.  He proved himself as a complete quarterback.  Cardale once again showed his leadership and poise.  He made mistakes.  The offense made mistakes.  Cardale never blinked.  He threw for 242 yards, ran for 38 more, and accounted for two touchdowns.

Grade: A

Can King Cardale earn anything else after scoring a national title for the Buckeyes?  Well, no.  But, in his three starts, Jones did display elite size and arm strength.  He can literally make every throw on the field, and his running ability is overlooked.  Once he gets going I pity the first defender to make contact.  I also doubt that it was a simple coincidence that Ezekiel Elliott enjoyed his best three games as a Buckeye when Cardale was the quarterback.  His arm strength certainly served to stretch the field and thus open up the defense; in effect making room for the run game.  However, it is clear that Cardale does not make the best reads in the read option run game; many of the would-be reads were in essence predetermined before the snap during Cardale’s three starts.  Did I mention that he won a national title?

Braxton Miller

Braxton is Braxton.  Whether he decides to return or not Braxton will always be a Buckeye.

Grade: Incomplete

Stephen Collier

The young signal-caller took a redshirt this year.  While it is near impossible to predict his future, and whether he even remains at Ohio State, at this point I would bank on Urban turning me into an All-American if given a few years to work with my (non-existent) talent.

Grade: Incomplete

2015 Outlook

Wow.  That moment when you realize that Ohio State has, at minimum, three of the four best quarterbacks in the Big Ten (your welcome Connor Cook).  Urban Meyer just completed the best coaching performance in the history of college football.  What other team or coach could have taken his third string quarterback and won the national championship?  2015 has a chance to top his coaching performance of 2014 however.  Just think, if Urban somehow manages to simultaneously win and keep all three happy, that would speak volumes.  Really, could you be upset with any of the three starting next year?

At this point, though, the smart money must be on Jones.  For one, he will be the only healthy quarterback during spring practice and thus will receive the vast majority of first team reps.  And secondly, he just WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.  Cardale is the starter for the 2015 season while Barrett still plays significant minutes.  Then, JT becomes the full time starter for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  You can’t tell me that Barrett will not be the best backup quarterback in the history of the free world.

If indeed Braxton returns for his final year of eligibility, it is hard to picture him being the starter.  If he were willing to accept a role as an H-Back and general offensive weapon than this already potent offense could become absolutely devastating; but I think Braxton views himself as a quarterback.  Period.  I contend the smart money is on Braxton declaring for this summer’s supplemental draft and pinning his hopes on making an NFL roster.  He will see the writing on the wall, namely that he is now third choice quarterback, and decide to move on.

What a season for the quarterback position at Ohio State.  What will 2015 hold?  I can’t wait to find out.