Coach: Tim Beck (first year)
2014 BSB Final Grade: A
How do you not give this unit an A+ for the second half when the third-string quarterback leads the team to a national championship?
It’s best to start with the one nitpick, which is that Ohio State regressed in the turnover department as the season went on. Sophomore Cardale Jones, who enjoyed a brilliant postseason, threw an interception against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and was at least partly responsible for three of the four turnovers against Oregon in the national championship game.
With that being said, the performances head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman were able to coax out of Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett bordered on the supernatural. This team was, to some extent, written off as a shell of itself once Braxton Miller went down with a shoulder injury in August. That cycle repeated itself in a lesser form when Barrett fractured his fibula against Michigan.
Speaking of Barrett, his play certainly deserves some mention here. In a game in which he didn’t have his best stuff, he still piloted the Buckeyes to two overtime touchdowns in a season-saving victory at Happy Valley. He also won handily at Michigan State against a defense that flummoxed teams over the past two years. By the end of the season, he had OSU fans wondering whether he might usurp Miller as the starter next year.
With that being said, Ohio State might have saved its best quarterback play for last. That’s an incredible thing to say about this position group’s depth. The more frightening aspect (for opponents) is this: all three could be back for more this fall.
- 56-92 (60.9), 860 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT; 72 rush, 296 yards, TD
16 J.T. Barrett (6-1, 225, Soph.)
- 203-314 (64.6), 2,834 yards, 34 TD, 10 INT; 171 rush, 938 yards, 11 TD (Will not practice in spring; injury)
5 Braxton Miller (6-2, 215, Sr.)
- Injured in 2014; will not practice in spring
13 Stephen Collier (6-3, 220, R-Fr.)
- Redshirted in 2014
12 Cardale Jones (6-5, 250, Jr.)
The Buckeyes need to see progress from both Jones and Collier, the two healthy scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Jones showed his tremendous physical skills in the last three games but now must showcase consistency in order to be trusted in the battle to take over the full-time job in 2015, while Collier will get his first chance to receive a lot of reps after he was the scout-team QB by the end of 2014. The Buckeyes will also need to start taking to the scheme implemented by Beck, who Meyer has said has been brought in to help the passing game grow.
Player On The Spot
Jones. As the only healthy member of the Magnificent Three, he is very much on the spot to show that his ballyhooed decision to pass up the chance to go pro was the right one. It’s great that Jones wants to finish his degree, but on the football field, coming back was a big risk; he can help his draft stock with a huge year but also hurt it if he ends up not serving as OSU’s starter. Almost by default, he’ll be given every chance in the spring to show that this is his team after winning the national championship, so a strong performance both on the field and off can answer a lot of questions.
Spring Is A Success If…
Jones shows he’s just as good as his end-of-season run would indicate. There’s no denying how impressive Jones was at the end of the season while facing some of the top teams in the country; in fact, he was a revelation, someone who earned how marks for his playmaking, his power, his precision and his game management. Now the key is consistency; a solid run of practices from 1 to 15 will show he’s as good as the last few games would indicate, when he bombed Wisconsin, led a spirited comeback and then buried Alabama, and recovered from some youthful mistakes to overwhelm Oregon. Seeing the Buckeyes throw a little more consistently under Beck would also be a positive.
Spring Is A Failure If…
The Buckeyes leave with more questions than they entered with. No one knows for sure how this battle is going to go, but if Jones struggles running the team on a daily basis in the spring things will really get interesting come fall. The much-discussed and much-anticipated quarterback battle won’t happen in earnest until then. However, there is the chance to for Jones to cement himself as a viable option to be a full-time starter, something he has only done in his career via a three-game stretch of action. Seeing development out of Collier will also be crucial, particularly for the player himself with two quarterbacks set to arrive in fall.