Loaded Question: JT or Cardale?

J.T. Barrett

by Chris Gaitten

Make your case for Ohio State’s starting quarterback, my editor said. Fine. I can do this in two words: just touchdowns. In 2014, J.T. “Just Touchdowns” Barrett scored 45 of them. 45. In 11 and a half games. We done here?

No? You want more? Well good, so does my editor.

140927-FootballOSU0275This year’s starting QB situation is unprecedented—a major college program has never had three quarterbacks with this level of raw talent and successful game experience. Braxton Miller was a Heisman frontrunner before his 2014 preseason injury; Barrett was a legitimate Heisman contender midway through the season; and if Cardale Jones does become the entrenched starter this season, he would immediately jump into serious consideration. In football-speak, that shit is bonkers. They’re all wildly talented and capable of leading this team back to the Promised Land. That aside, the choice is fairly obvious.

Miller has made it significantly easier by essentially bowing out, which may be the best choice for his future and for the team. That leaves Jones and Barrett. Jones holds a special place for fans right now because he was the affable third-string hero who helped the team win the national title. He has the biggest arm of the three, and though he’s the slowest and least elusive, he still has the combination of speed and brute size to be a running threat.

Barrett, though, is a complete player—every aspect of his game runs the gamut from fundamentally sound to off-the-charts exceptional—and with him at the helm, the offense is also complete, dangerous in every way. He has deceptive speed, shifty moves, the size to shed tacklers, the intelligence to run the offense efficiently, an arm capable of making all the throws, and he’s the most accurate and consistent. As Urban Meyer affirmed, he’s also a natural leader.

Meyer said he would make the final decision based on a comprehensive system of data-gathering and number-crunching during preseason camps, practices, lifting sessions, classes, and leadership training. Later, he claimed he would also allow his gut to have a say. That’s all well and good—he can use his gut, his pancreas, his gallbladder, his Magic Eight Ball, and his Ouija board for all I care. I don’t need any of that; I have eyes and a brain and an Internet connection.

Ohio State is perhaps in the midst of a historic run, and as the stats verify, Barrett is a QB for the ages. Last year he set Big 10 and Ohio State records for touchdowns in a season, in addition to 16 other school records—16. He now owns the mark for touchdown passes in a season (34), total yards in a season (3,772), career completion percentage (64.6), touchdown passes in a game (6), and season passing efficiency (169.8). Though Jones is known as the bigger passer, Barrett has the record for longest pass (80 yards), and though Miller is known as the better runner, Barrett has the record for longest run (86 yards). He threw for more than 300 yards four times; neither Jones nor Miller ever has. Jones averaged 277 yards of offense in his three starts; Miller’s 2013 average was 264; Barrett’s is 314. And oh by the way, he scores touchdowns. Lots of them.

Miller is plug-and-play; you find ways to get him involved regardless of position because he’s electric with the ball and a matchup nightmare before the snap. Jones is the world’s largest safety net; in many ways, he’s reminiscent of former backup and fan favorite Kenny Guiton. Though his game is far different, Jones offers similar upside—he knows the playbook, he embraces the spotlight, and he can get it done in crunch time if necessary.

But Barrett is the starter. Period. He will win games, and most of them will never get anywhere close to crunch time. Hand him the ball on September 7, open the playbook, and let him go full speed. Then watch as everyone else disappears, the record book burning in the rearview.

Cardale Jones

by Travis Hoewischer

I can’t believe I’m typing this.

I can’t even believe we’re covering a team that would enable me to type this.

In fact, Facebook’s “On This Day” feature reminded me that I was telling all my friends that no way could J.T. Barrett be better than Braxton Miller a year ago. Instead he was better than every quarterback in OSU history.

Which makes this even more insane to say that the Buckeyes should move away from both of them.

But Cardale Jones—the quarterback who lost his spot in training camp to the backup, he of the infamous “we ain’t come to play school” tweet—is the man to lead the 2015 Buckeye football team.

We should look at all three quarterbacks as a sort of Goldilocks analogy of the prototypical Urban Meyer quarterback: Miller brought an unparalleled burst of playmaking ability, one needed for a team that had less balanced options; Barrett added a more technical conistency to his throws and reads while not sacrificing all of Miller’s athletic ability.

Both great, but not quite to “just right.”

That’s Jones, a 6-feet-5-inch behemoth with a 100-yard arm and enough running ability to make a frigid droplet of sweat start to form just under the headset of every opposing defensive coordinator on OSU’s schedule. He can spread the field, spearhead a power running attack (being a power runner himself), and can throw the deep ball effortlessly and consistently.

If we can, just for a second, let’s illustrate what a man like Jones does to a defense through the eyes of opposing safeties—those poor bastards who will be constantly calculating which way “12 Gauge” and the Buckeyes offense will dismantle them.

They’ll have to freeze for at least a split second when that big Transformer in cleats even hints at handing the ball off to Heisman-trophy candidate running back Ezekiel Elliott. That split second of hesitation, the one used by every offensive coordinator to destroy an opposing team, is ticking from the sweaty forehead of that safety. Pause for one second and Elliott—or Miller—are already at midfield, chopping your defensive buds into highlight reels, a future first-round pick and a former Big Ten Offensive MVP are steaming past you toward the end zone.

The most frightening part of that equation is that the other two options for that safety, that quarterback of the defense, ain’t grand either: one, Jones can flick that ball over his ear and over their head in a matter of seconds, and two, he doesn’t hand it off, or find a receiver, he can decide to unleash himself and run, and by the time he gets to the safety, he’s worked up enough steam to crumple a commercial refrigerator into a small piece of corrugated steel. 

I mean, I know what quarterback makes the most sense if I am an offensive lineman. How about the one who is less likely to get hurt and also helped spring a running back for nearly a 1,000-yard postseason and gets them tons of credit?

Sure, it’s all circuital. (And I love Barrett, by the way). You could make the argument that the O-line made him Jones better, or that Elliott’s emergence lessened the offensive onus on him personally. But that’s what football is—once you have all these units gaining momentum all at once, you’ve drained any opposing defensive coaches of the ability to expose anything remotely resembling a fatal flaw.

With Barrett, you’re a fantastic team, just like you were all through 2014.

With Jones in 2015, you’re the Death Star, except with all incomplete areas bricked in, and now you’re able to reach your peak dominance. Plus, your quarterback is Darth Vader, covered in Buckeye leaves, draped in confidence, and able to affect opponents just by his mere physical presence.

The best part of this plan and the one sure to create even more of those sweaty “Gamedaymares” is that Barrett coming off the bench as a sub-package guy who can run and throw only makes the Bucks more dangerous, and it provides one more reason to buy fast on the notion of Jones as QB.

Plus, Jones as a story is just fun: He’s a man who’s climbed out of the coaches’ dumpster, bounced back from a lax academic attitude, and he has just enough mystery left (three games on film total) that you can’t help but, in addition to the above points, want to see what’s left of his story in Columbus.