That’s the precarious state of the Ohio State quarterback situation. With the ankle fracture to J.T. Barrett against Michigan and the preseason shoulder injury to Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes have just two healthy scholarship quarterbacks on their roster.
Third-string quarterback Cardale Jones will get the start against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. If the sophomore were to go down, the reins would likely fall to Stephen Collier, but the freshman was in line to redshirt this season and head coach Urban Meyer wasn’t sure if they would pull the trigger and burn the Georgian’s redshirt if the Buckeyes were forced to go to their third string quarterback.
“It hasn't been determined yet,” Meyer said simply when asked if Collier would get the call if necessary.
Also in the mix is redshirt freshman “H” back Jalin Marshall. An all-state quarterback in high school, Marshall has been involved in wildcat packages this season, a roll that has expanded as the season has unfolded. Marshall has thrown one pass this season, an incompletion against Illinois.
Meyer acknowledges that Marshall would be in the mix if they needed an emergency quarterback. Hopefully for the Buckeyes, they won’t have to worry about their fourth-string quarterback against the Badgers. But the fact that Ohio State is thin at quarterback won’t have much impact on how they call plays for Jones, offensive coordinator Tom Herman said.
“J.T. got hurt on a read play, Braxton got hurt on a pass,” Herman said.
“So in order to run the football the way we do our business, you can’t take out the quarterback read element of it. But the called and designed quarterback runs you can probably take a few of those out.”
Meyer agreed that the quarterback run cannot be eliminated from the Ohio State offense, no matter what the situation is at quarterback. That becomes even more apparent when considering that Jones is more proven as a runner than a passer.
Jones enters the Big Ten championship game with 43 rushes for 340 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and one rushing touchdown.
“The scramble changes the game of football if you have a guy that can move back there,” Meyer said. “The direct runs, we limit those. So you have scramble, direct run, which and then the other one is a read component where a defensive player gives you a read to pull the ball and run with it.”
Those read plays will remain a key part of the offense with Jones at the helm. If he were to go down in any fashion against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will be forced to make a tough decision at quarterback.