Losing A Leader

When the Buckeyes face Wisconsin on Saturday, they won't just be looking to replace J.T. Barrett's production, they'll look to replace his leadership.

When J.T. Barrett went down with a fractured ankle in the second half against Michigan Saturday, Ohio State didn’t just lose a Heisman-level player. It lost a leader.

Barrett showed over the 11 games and change that he played for the Buckeyes that he was an incredible talent, breaking Ohio State and conference records along the way. He also showed a calm leadership that the Buckeyes came to expect from their signal caller.

The new man in the huddle will be Cardale Jones on Saturday, and it is hard for head coach Urban Meyer to say if the sophomore has the same leadership chops.

“He hasn't been in that situation yet,” the coach said of Jones’ ability to lead. “He did in the spring. He did a good job. Remember he was our back up. He ran with the ones in the spring.”

Those spring practice reps are all the staff really has to go on in terms of Jones leadership qualities when put in a tough situation.

Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman praised Barrett throughout the season for his dedicated preparation and attention to detail when studying an opponent. Meyer said the redshirt freshman was unique in that situation and hopes that Jones approaches things in a similar fashion.

“We expect our quarterbacks to prepare a certain way,” Meyer said. “You hear stories throughout college football history and pro football history about the guys that are gym rats, and that's what J.T. was. Is Cardale that type? I'll let you know. It would be a great bonus for all of us, but he'll certainly put in a lot of time getting ready to go.”

Jones comes across as a jokester, and one particular tweet during his first fall on campus may have shown his immaturity. Herman said that things are night and day from a maturity standpoint with Jones now and Barrett gave assurances that Jones takes football seriously.

“Cardale’s a real smart dude, he definitely understands our offense and everything about it,” Barrett said when addressing the media with a cast on his ankle Wednesday.

“He definitely does take football very serious. It means a lot to him and he knows what it means to our teammates as well. He’s definitely going to be locked in.”

That’s what matters. The game Saturday is about production, about Jones leaning on the playmakers around him to produce an offensive result that allows the Buckeyes to celebrate their first Big Ten championship since 2010. The other qualities are more important up until kickoff.

“The intangibles and the leadership and all that stuff I think are more in the locker room and day-to-day than they are during the three hours during the game,” Herman said.

That means that the Buckeyes seniors are going to have to step up to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks with their leader lost for the rest of the season.

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