While preparing for his role as the starting H-back and punt returner, Jalin Marshall has also been preparing for the possibility that he will be called on to play quarterback. Marshall, a high school signal caller at Middletown just two years ago, would be the player to take snaps if starter Cardale Jones were to get injured against Alabama.
That was also the case in the Big Ten Championship Game, but Marshall had just a few days to prepare as the backup quarterback for that contest. Things have changed in bowl preparation.
“I am the backup quarterback so I have to go about things differently now,” he said. “I have to be more focused, study more film. I have to know what the defense is doing and I think that helps me at the receiver position as well and at the H-back, just knowing what the defense is going to do.”
Marshall said he has taken about 300 reps at the quarterback position while preparing for Alabama and has been working to take every rep mentally. He is not, however, sitting in on quarterback meetings. Wide receiver coach Zach Smith has been passing information from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman on to Marshall after the receivers meetings.
Herman said that in a situation where Jones might have 10 or 12 plays available to him Marshall would have just three or four.
“It’s all about what can they do, what can they do well. We’re not inventing plays,” Herman said. “So you try to shrink what he has to learn. Let’s not forget he’s our starting H too. He doesn’t even meet with me, he just kind of gets his quarterback coaching on the field. Coach Smith takes great notes when we’re watching film and passes it along to him.”
Marhsall, who passed for 2,240 yards as a senior in high school, said that after nearly every rep he takes he talks with either Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett about what the injured quarterbacks saw on the play.
Head coach Urban Meyer acknowledged that having a wide receiver as the backup quarterback is far from an ideal situation, but that doesn’t change his expectations.
“I made this comment over and over again; the one thing that's not allowed is there are no excuses,” he said. “It is what it is. I feel very comfortable where we're at.”
It helps that at 6-5 250 pounds Jones feels indestructible and the chances that Marshall is forced to play quarterback aren’t high. If he is called upon to lead the Buckeyes on the field, the redshirt freshman will be ready.
“Being a quarterback in high school and then coming up here in the Sugar Bowl to play for it all, to play quarterback would be a dream come true for me, but you kind of got to throw that out the window,” he said. “We’ve got a game to win and at this point it’s about the team. I’ll do whatever it is I have to do for the team to win.”
Even if it means he’s been a little busy this past month.