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The Path to the Redzone Quarterback
By Patrick Murphy

COLUMBUS – The Buckeyes have a new plan. When Ohio State gets down near the end zone quarterback Cardale Jones will step out of the game and backup J.T. Barrett will check in.

Fans saw this for the first time on Saturday, as OSU used this strategy to go a perfect six for six in the redzone after struggling to score when they got close throughout the season.

“We have two great quarterbacks,” Jones said after the game. “We feel like both of them can play and contribute to the team, contribute to the offense.”

Meyer didn’t announce a starter until the opening snap of the season, but said each guy would need to be ready. So far this year, Jones has started each game and Barrett has contributed sparingly, but now it appears each has their role.

J.T. Barrett had his first three rushing touchdown game as the new redzone quarterback
Photo by Jim Davidson

This is a touchy situation, as both quarterbacks want to play, so how did Meyer come to this decision and tell his players about his new idea?

“He said he was going on his Monday walk and stuff like that and he was just thinking and he decided to actually ask us about to see how we would feel about it and then let us think about it for a couple of hours,” Jones said. “Then he called us back up to the facility and we gave him what we thought about it.”

After giving it some thought, both players returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and gave Meyer their thoughts. Ultimately, the decision was made that this would be the approach in the redzone in order to get the Buckeyes more touchdowns.

The two-quarterback system is not a revolutionary idea. Meyer had a similar experience in 2006 at Florida where he had two talented quarterbacks with specific skillsets and that season resulted in a national championship.

“We all know he has that experience, but the discussions weren’t really about Florida and those two guys, although they had a great run doing that,” co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner. “It was just what can we do to improve our redzone offense, how can we get the ball in, how can we be more effective there? And we brainstormed, and with Coach Meyer’s past experience, I’m sure that helped trigger the thought that maybe that’s J.T.’s role, to be the redzone specialist.”

While Jones leads Ohio State down the field each drive, he will infrequently get to finish the job when the Scarlet and Gray get close to pay dirt. For Barrett, this new role gives him an opportunity to get in the game regularly and lead the Buckeyes to the end zone, but only in the redzone.

This could cause problems between the two players and the in the locker room, but according to the coaching staff, that is not a great worry.

“We have two great human beings who are unselfish and they are team first,” Warinner said.

“Coach Meyer and the staff had a conversation with them about what we were thinking. And we were reading what they say and how they act and how they respond, and they were both great with, ‘Hey, we just want to help this team win, we’ll do whatever.’ So they’re both really great people to work with.”

What made the quarterback competition easier in the offseason and what could allow this redzone swapping to work is how close these two players are. The two best friends like to see each other – and most importantly the team – do well.

“It might be more challenging, for sure if they didn’t like each other,” Warinner said. “At the end of the day it’s all about how to help Ohio State win games and everybody on the team has to be willing to sacrifice for that, every coach, every player. Those guys are very selfless.”

Player profiles relevant to story:
12 - Jones, Cardale | 16 - Barrett, J.T. | Coach - Meyer, Urban | Coach - Warinner, Ed
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