The Ohio State quarterback situation was clearly The Story of college football for the 2014 season, and we might never see anything like that again in our lifetimes. From Braxton Miller's injury, to J.T. Barrett's record setting season, to Cardale Jones leading the Buckeyes to the national title, it was a year to remember.
What can these guys do for an encore? Who starts this coming season? Who ends up the number-three quarterback? There's just no way to answer this question in early April, but it's going to be fun watching these questions get answered next August.
Cardale Jones. Cleveland Glenville. I still don't believe what I saw in games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, and I still don't understand how a college quarterback dominates the best teams in college football with little or no experience. It's also hard to believe what I saw out of Jones this past Saturday, from his leadership to his pinpoint passing. He is the most talented of The Three, in my opinion, and I never thought I would ever write that. He was running for his life Saturday behind a makeshift line, but made every read and every throw effortlessly. The delivery is tighter. The vision to read the field used to be zero, and it's now impressive. He looks like Cam Newton to me, and a future NFL first round pick. He's always had size. He's always had a cannon. He also was never committed to becoming great, which I believe he is now. Just as he has progressed from the tweet about school a few years ago, to the person who turns down the NFL to get his degree, that is also who he is as a football player. I remember Jones well as a high school player at Glenville. I remember talking to Ted Ginn for hours about him, both as a player and a person. I cannot believe what I'm watching in the 2015 version of Cardale Jones. I would start him next year over Miller and Barrett, and I like those two very much. To me, Jones is the best of the three. He can do more things to win big games than the other two can, although I think the 2015 edition of Ohio State can win it all with any of the three quarterbacks.
Stephen Collier. Leesburg (GA). Has a long way to go to be able to play and win games at Ohio State, but he has similar skills to Kenny Guiton, so maybe he shocks the world some day. He is not in the same stratosphere of the Big Three, and it's hard to see him holding off Joey Burrow and Torrance Gibson going forward, but that's why they play it out from spring to the fall. Seems to have to be a guy that will get it done by being the smartest player on the field, and having the ability to not turn the football over in clutch situations. Does not have a strong arm, and not the fastest guy in the world, but if he stays in the program, serves his time, maybe he gets his shot one day? He would be a game-manager type, and he will have be a guy that can move the chains on third down, and get the offense into the right spots. Can he succeed with all the talent Urban Meyer will stack around him? Yes. Will he get the opportunity to do so barring a lot of injuries? Not this season. What I saw Saturday was pretty much how I saw Collier after viewing him at Ohio State's camp a few summers ago. He faces long odds at being the starter at Ohio State, but guys like Darryl Baldwin and Tyvis Powell are proof positive that it can happen if you work your tail off and stay coachable.
J.T. Barrett. Wichita Falls (TX). Loved him from the first time I watched his film as a high school junior, and never wavered off that evaluation even after shaky starts against Navy and Virginia Tech. Seeing him dominate the Big Ten last season was not a surprise to me, and I do think Ohio State "might" have won it all with Barrett had he not been injured. Of course, we will never know that answer. Did not participate in Saturday's practice, but watching him engage with his teammates, it's easy to see the leadership and confidence. Not the fastest guy, but he can hurt people running the football. Not the biggest arm in the world, but ask Michigan State about his throwing ability. A pure winner, and a guy that was forced into action a year earlier than anyone expected at Ohio State. That he succeeded with flying colors only goes to Barrett's skills and mental makeup. If Miller can't go this season, and Barrett beats out Jones, can Ohio State repeat as champions? Without question. Barrett would be my number-two, and the clear number-two, but obviously I'm not Urban Meyer. And all Ohio State fans can thank The Lord for that. Assuming he sits this season, and that's hard to grasp, Barrett would still have two seasons remaining to lead Ohio State. What he did last season as a redshirt freshman is remarkable, and he only figures to get better and better as he gets more experience. A Heisman favorite some day. Maybe this coming season?
Braxton Miller. Huber Heights Wayne. Possibly the top player in college football with the football in his hands, and I would love to see him as a slot receiver/runningback this season. Also think that move would be serve his NFL dreams, as well as benefiting Ohio State. Can a guy whose accuracy was questioned two years ago come back as a better passer following two major shoulder surgeries? It's impossible for me to believe he can, but if he does it will be an amazing story. Have loved watching this kid play football since seeing him tear Canton McKinley a new one at Fawcett Stadium as a high school junior. Just an amazing talent, and a kid that was always so nice to everyone he came in contact with. There's no way anyone can't root for Braxton Miller, and he represents Ohio State so well. To me, he would be the third quarterback, but Ohio State can win it all with him this year I think. He will have to be a better passer than he showed when he last started, and I guess that can happen. The running ability? Please. He's the best there is at that skill. I would never let him be the #3 QB at all. He would either be the starter at quarterback for me, or the number-one option at one of the wideout spots. And I would put the ball in his hands OFTEN, either by throwing it to him, putting him at tailback some, as a slot back, or as a Wildcat quarterback. He would get the ball for me A LOT, and then watch the scoreboard change.
All in all, there's only one thing left to say about the coming quarterback derby this fall: Get your popcorn ready!