So the team is on its third quarterback, and Cardale Jones has proved to be good enough to pilot the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Championship Game blowout of Wisconsin. But if something were to happen to Jones in the Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama, the Buckeyes would really be up a creek without a paddle.
With the only other scholarship signal caller on the roster, true freshman Stephen Collier, taking a redshirt, redshirt freshman wideout Jalin Marshall is the backup quarterback for the New Year’s Day game vs. Alabama.
And while it might seem unlikely the Buckeyes will have to go to him – Jones is a tank at 6-5, 250 pounds, after all – just about everything about this season from the multiple injuries to the way OSU has bounced back from them all has been pretty unlikely.
So Marshall must be ready, and when quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman was asked about his comfort level with that situation on Sunday, all he could do is laugh.
“Awful,” he said between guffaws. “A wideout is the backup quarterback! That’s awful. Now, it makes me maybe a little more comfortable than some because of who Jalin is, but you wouldn’t sign up for it if asked, I can tell you that.”
It helps that Marshall has some experience, having been served as a quarterback at Middletown High School. As a Middie, the five-star prospect ran for a school-record 4,759 yards in his career and also threw for 2,240 yards as a senior.
He’s taken direct snaps this season in the Wildcat and even has thrown a pair of passes – one against Illinois and one in the title game vs. Wisconsin, both of which fell incomplete.
“He played quarterback in high school, so it’s not like he’s some random guy,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said.
Herman said the team has faith in Marshall should the need arise to insert him in the game.
“He’s really sharp mentally, so that helps,” he said. “He sees the game like a quarterback because he played the position. He knows. Now it’s a little faster, the terminology is different, and what we ask him to do is a lot different than what he did in high school, but kids who have never played the position have a hard time seeing it through that lens and he can. He’s a really sharp kid. You tell him one time and he gets it.”
Herman said Marshall does take practice reps at quarterback at times in practice but doesn’t really meet with the quarterbacks – instead, Herman will have wideouts coach Zach Smith brief him on what he saw on film after his practice performances.
He would also have a smaller game plan if he were to go into the game, one that is likely heavy on runs but would include the chance to throw the ball.
“He’s not going to get the whole game plan, that’s the thing,” Herman said. “We say, ‘Hey Jalin, here’s what you need to know. If you had to go in the game, we would try to win the game with these 15 plays with you at quarterback rather than have you try to learn the whole thing and then you not perform very well.’ ”
Marshall warmed up some with the Ohio State quarterbacks before the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis and said afterward he would have been ready if called upon.
“Cardale is an exceptional quarterback so I probably couldn’t put myself in the same category as him,” he said. “We would just try to maintain as much execution as I could, but I feel like I’m good enough.”