Cus Words: What's next in OSU QB derby?

Last week we learned that if Cardale Jones is Ohio State's starter, he has a small margin for error. Will either of those things change this week?

What we learned last week: Everyone is vexed by the Ohio State quarterback situation.

That would seem to include the head coach, who in my estimation did not really follow his own words in the past week.

I guess there were multiple ways to interpret Urban Meyer's statement that Cardale Jones is the starter. He did follow it up with a caveat about J.T. Barrett still being in the competition and not having beaten out Jones "yet," but I took the first part of the statement more literally than the second.

That's generally how it goes with Meyer, who has a tendency to make strong declarations then realize he might be better off softening the sentiment even before he finishes a sentence.

But what he said in the first place is often a good window into his true (primary?) thinking.

Whether he meant the first part more than the second, the way Cardale Jones' playing time has been treated has not lent itself to a belief he is what I would call the starter.

Jones certainly made enough questionable plays to consider at least a temporary switch, but then again if he's the starter it would seem like he also deserves a greater chance to play through a number of mistakes.

How large a number? That's a good question, but pulling him at the first opportunity in consecutive weeks hasn't proven to be the answer. Also recall Meyer appeared to be ready to go to Barrett in the first half against Virginia Tech, but the opportunity didn't really present itself because of how long the Hokies had the ball late in the second quarter.

I guess when Meyer admitted after the Hawaii game he had to wonder if he was being fair to them, I thought he would rethink how he was deploying them, but the actions ended up being the same, so I'm not sure what the point of saying Jones is the starter might have been.

If one of them is the starter, that would mean to me he gets a lot more rope than either of them have gotten so far. Meyer said Jones has had more practice reps, for what that's worth.

For sure Jones has made some mistakes, but they are not limited to him. The first half alone against Northern Illinois had numerous moments when things appeared ready to take off but something was just a little off. A motion penalty here or a bad snap or missed block there. After that, it's fair to guess staying in the game gave a proud Northern Illinois team that knows what it's like to win fairly often confidence it could stick around.

Going to the Braxton Miller "wildcat" package right after Jones made one of his best throws of the day probably didn't help the offense build momentum, either, but then again he might score if he doesn't drop a snap.

I would be remiss if I did not admit I thought (and wrote) before the season Ohio State might be the exception to the rule as far as using multiple quarterbacks. It's a unique situation, and Meyer insisted over and over the two of them are special people who were handling the battle very well.

Of course Jones and Barrett both expressed concerns themselves, but it was reasonable to give Meyer the benefit of the doubt. That's what comes with being a successful coach who seems to get better than most the psychology of the job.

But what's happened doesn't seem to be helping either guy. If the rest of the offense shaped up, would we have a different story? Maybe, but the uncertainty at quarterback could be a contributing factor for whatever lack of focus and/or execution is afflicting the group as a whole, too.

What we can expect to learn this week: I normally write this before Meyer's Monday press conferences then tweak it if necessary, but I held off this week because I really had no idea what he was going to do with the quarterbacks.

I thought whoever he went with in the second half needed to be the guy barring something very dramatic, but given the near complete lack of positive impact Barrett had in the second half it would stand to reason Meyer and his staff will start over again to start this week.

Meyer did not give many clues in his presser as far as who will start this week, but he did make a couple of things clear: He does not believe making them earn their playing time should have a negative effect on the quarterbacks' play, and he does not feel like he's running a two-quarterback system.

(Going back to what I wrote before the season, a two-quarterback system might work better than what he has done so far in that both could have more reason to relax if both know they are going to get opportunities as opposed to each wondering if the next is his last.)

The first comment flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but that doesn't mean he can't be correct. Meyer has won a lot of football games doing things his way, and he knows a thing or two about psychology.

That said, it hasn't worked so far, and it's hard to conclude mindset hasn't been an issue for both Jones and Barrett. Will one of them snap out of it, throw caution to the wind and begin excelling in this competitive gauntlet Meyer has thrown down? Maybe. Is that a risk worth taking? Again, the answer could be yes, but the alternative is a bit scary.

Perhaps Jones lost the job -- though that would be a precipitous fall from being declared the starter last Monday -- but it would not seem Barrett did much, if anything, to win it against NIU.

His touchdown pass was a pretty throw but also an incompletion without a great play by a reasonably well-covered Michael Thomas, and Barrett threw an interception that appeared to be as egregious as the second one Jones tossed. Both either lost track of a defender or misread a coverage. And Barrett for all intents and purposes would have matched Jones on interceptions for the day if the pass he threw into the chest of a defender in the end zone had not been dropped. That nearly cost Ohio State three points in a seven-point game.

Although he did not mention a name this week (unlike last week), Meyer still sounded as if he has a starter and a backup in mind. It's hard to conclude he will make a change unless something drastic happens in practice, but he also threw us for a loop last week between his comments and his actions.

He might believe in the quarterbacks' ability to grow from this competition more than they do, and he might be right if they just stay the course.

A look at the schedule (and the defense) indicates he's got some time to let it play out.


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