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2014 Ohio State Rewind: Quarterback
By James Vogel
Jones led Ohio State to its first national championship since 2002.
Photo by Dan Harker
 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State quarterback situation is something that is about as unprecedented as any witnessed.

Not only is the pecking order at quarterback up in the air heading into preparations for the 2015 season, the position is welcoming in a new coach in Tim Beck.

To top it all off, the Buckeyes recruited two of the nation’s best quarterbacks for their 2015 class and won the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship in 2014.

Without trying to speculate too much on who Urban Meyer, Ed Warinner and Beck are planning to start at quarterback next season, let’s look back at the spot’s production in the title run.

Expectations Coming Into The Season

When Meyer sat down at the podium in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days in July, the first words out his mouth regarded the health of Miller’s throwing shoulder.

“Our quarterback — I know we’ll get asked that question — is ready to go,” Meyer said. “He’s full speed, in the best shape of his life.”

As we all know now, that statement turned out not to be true. Miller went down with another shoulder injury less than two weeks before the season opener against Navy, suffering a torn labrum in a non-contact drill during camp.

Prior to his injury, both Meyer and Miller spoke to the media like all systems were normal with the quarterback’s rehabilitation. They made it seem unwise to think anyone other than him would be the starter for the Buckeyes.

“From what they tell me, he’s right on schedule,” Meyer said Aug. 16. “We’d like to have him to do a bit more, but he did scrimmage today and attitude’s great. He’ll be ready.”

Two days later, Miller re-injured that shoulder and was lost for the season.

Miller's injury relegated him to the sideline all season long.
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

The conversation then quickly turned to J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, guys that had been battling to be Miller’s backup in spring practice and the early stages of fall camp. Both had been taking first team snaps while Miller rehabbed, and Barrett ultimately won the job.

Replacing a two-time Big Ten Silver Football winner is no easy task, but quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman, Meyer and Barrett’s teammates spoke confidently about the redshirt freshman.

“He’s kind of Guiton-ish. He’s a very calm, cool, collected guy,” Meyer said, comparing Barrett to former backup and fan favorite Kenny Guiton. “He has very good leadership skills.”

“I’m very confident,” Herman said. “I think J.T.’s had an excellent camp.”

Everyone in and around the program wasn’t shy about saying how the team’s expectations didn’t change at all once Miller went down with the injury. The loss of a leader and team captain hurt initially, but most everyone believed in Barrett’s abilities to run the offense and score points.

How The Season Played Out

Barrett got his feet wet against Navy and showed promise, throwing for 226 yards and two touchdowns with a simplified playbook in the 34-17 victory. He did toss one interception — a bad decision to throw across the field near the goal line — but the Buckeyes left Baltimore with their 25th consecutive regular season victory.

As we all know, that streak came to an end the following week under the lights at Ohio Stadium against Virginia Tech. The Hokies 46 Bear, Cover 0 defense caught everyone in scarlet and gray off guard and resulted in seven sacks — six in the fourth quarter.

“I’m a little bit surprised. I thought our skilled guys would perform better, I thought we’d protect a little better,” Meyer said then. “Coaches don’t get surprised, we get disappointed. Obviously, we’ve just got to work a little harder.”

Call the loss a perfect storm, a bad day for Ohio State or anything else you might, but in a way it helped the team in the long run. National pundits and poll voters knocked the Buckeyes way down in the rankings as they believed they didn’t have a good enough offensive line or a quarterback with enough experience to solve defenses and win games. That doubt pushed Ohio State for the rest of the season.

Barrett continued to improve against the weak defenses of Kent State and Cincinnati to get Ohio State back on track, then accounted for five total touchdowns in the Big Ten opener at Maryland. Cardale Jones even got to play in mop up duty of those games, providing some highlights by jumping over would be tacklers and bulldozing them with his immense size.

A turning point for Barrett came Oct. 25 at Penn State, where he played through a sprained knee, a couple mistakes and the wild White-Out crowd at Beaver Stadium to lead the Buckeyes to a 31-24 come from behind victory in double overtime.

“He wasn’t overly confident in the third quarter,” Meyer said, “but at the end of the day, end of the game, go make a play and he did it for us.”

After easily dispatching Illinois the following week, a visit to No. 8 and defending Big Ten Champion Michigan State was up next for Barrett and company. The quarterback — and offense as a whole — turned in their best performance of the season to that point against the rugged Spartan defense, racking up 568 total yards in the 49-37 victory. That put Ohio State in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten East Division and it never looked back.

Barrett (and his scooter) became Ohio State's biggest cheerleader during the postseason.
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

Another road win against a ranked team came in snowy Minneapolis a week later, when Barrett broke three of Miller’s school records in a 31-24 victory against No. 25 Minnesota. Barrett’s 189 rushing yards, his 37th total touchdown and an 86-yard scoring scamper in the first quarter were all record-setting marks against the Golden Gophers. It was then Meyer began his quarterback’s Heisman Trophy campaign.

“I don’t know if my endorsement matters, but I do statistically — been fortunate to coach some guys that have been in New York, and he’s a Heisman candidate,” Meyer said.

Barrett’s push for New York continued with vigor until the first play of the fourth quarter in Ohio State’s 42-28 victory against rival Michigan.

Keeping the ball on a read option, Barrett was taken down and his right ankle snapped under the pressure of the pile. Ohio State only led by seven points at that time, but Jones came in and did enough with Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line to put the Wolverines away.

Barrett’s season ended on that one fateful play, but he still finished the year with his name splashed all over the Ohio State record books. He tallied records for total yards (3,772), total touchdowns (45) and passing touchdowns (34). The 45 total scores were a Big Ten record and he finished fifth in the Heisman voting, but did not get an invitation to New York.

Jones was a big reason that didn’t happen, torching Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game for 257 yards and three touchdowns on only 12 completions while earning Most Valuable Player honors. The victory catapulted the Buckeyes into the first ever College Football Playoff and the rest, as they say, is history.

In all, Ohio State’s quarterbacks threw for 3,694 yards and 41 touchdowns. They also rushed for 1,234 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year as Herman, Meyer and Warinner adapted to Jones’ strengths seamlessly once Barrett went down with the injury.

Not a bad season considering a two-time Big Ten Most Valuable Player stood and watched all season.

What We Should Expect in 2015

Regardless who plays quarterback for Ohio State, we can expect them to be productive.

Miller (for now), Jones and Barrett are all back at Ohio State for 2015, but Jones is the lone signal caller who is healthy at the moment. Miller likely won’t be able to throw until late summer and Barrett got his cast off the week after the national title game. Jones has the early lead on winning the competition, but it’s pretty hard to keep Barrett off the field considering what he did in 2014.

The same could be said for Jones, too, considering he won the three biggest games of the year for Ohio State.

Torrance Gibson and Joey Burrow are two highly touted quarterback recruits who will step in and compete like the rest of the guys in the room, but it would seem unwise to think they would play at all next season unless it is at a different position.

Miller doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, but still could transfer at the end of the school year. He’s already completed his undergraduate degree so he can leave and play right away if he so wishes, but the health of his shoulder could prevent that. Meyer, Jones and Barrett all said they expect all three quarterbacks to be back next year and so far it looks that way.

With Herman gone and replaced by Beck, the quarterback room has some adjusting to do in terms of a different style of coaching. As long as Meyer is in Columbus, however, it’s pretty safe to say the position will be an asset.

Final Thoughts

None of us know who is going to start at quarterback week one against at Virginia Tech Labor Day night. We can all speculate and share our own opinions as to why it should be Miller, Barrett or Jones but it doesn’t matter.

Beck, Meyer and Warinner will decide when they’re good and ready who should get the nod and could even have something up their sleeve in terms of a two-quarterback system. Who knows?

One thing is for certain: they’ll put the guy (or guys) on the field who give Ohio State the best chance to win and repeat as Big Ten and College Football Playoff National Champions.

Previous Rewinds

Running Backs

Wide Receivers 

Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Defensive Backs

Linebackers

Defensive Tackles

Defensive Ends

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