Cardale Jones has stunned Ohio State and Buckeye fans over the last month. He has two starts and two wins over very good teams, while leading Ohio State to a Big Ten Title and a chance for the national championship. Over those two games against Wisconsin and Alabama, Jones wracked up 500 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 52 rushing yards and a pick. Not bad right? Let's see how that compares to the early starts of other recent Ohio State quarterbacks.
The one on TV now
Kirk Herbstreit may represent ESPN on TV nowadays, but there was a time, back in 1992, when he played quarterback for Ohio State. Herbstreit had been a great high school quarterback, and he played some behind Kent Graham in 1991, but he got his first start against Louisville in 1992. Herbstreit helped Ohio State to a close 20-19 victory over the Cardinals that came down to a botched onside kick attempt for Louisville. Herbstreit did not exactly play well, as he went 16-20 for 180 yards, but with two picks and zero touchdowns. He also had -2 rushing yards on 10 attempts, and Louisville, who only went 5-6 that season, wasn't exactly the most quality of wins.
Things did not go much better for Herbstreit in his second career start, but he did manage to pull out 17-6 win over Bowling Green. He had no touchdowns and only threw for 57 yards while completing 7-15 passes, while having another negative day on the ground, with -15 rushing yards. To Kirk's credit, BGSU did go 10-2 in 1992 and only allowed 19.6 points per game, and hey, Ohio State still won both games. It'll be interesting to see the inevitable Herbstreit and Jones interview later this week.
The national champ
Craig Krenzel may not have been the most electrifying player, but he helped lead the Buckeyes to their most recent national championship. Obviously, going 14-0 and winning the 2002 national championship over the Miami Hurricanes is the highlight of the Krenzel era, but every player has to start somewhere. Krenzel's first start came against the Michigan Wolverines, thanks to the suspension of Steve Bellisari. Krenzel was able to lead Ohio State to a 26-20 victory, which was also Ohio State's first in Ann Arbor since 1987. Krenzel did not wow the box score with 11-18 passing for 118 yards, no touchdowns and one pick (and -4 rush yards), but he was helped by Jonathan Wells. Wells went for 129 yards on 25 carries and had three touchdowns. That Michigan team was 8-4, but they were ranked No. 11 in that game.
Krenzel then had to wait until August of 2002 for his second start after Bellisari returned from suspension for the Outback Bowl in the previous season. Oddly enough, Krenzel threw for 118 yards again (on 11-14 passing), but again no touchdowns. He did add 34 yards rushing on 4 carries and a score in the 45-21 voctory over Texas Tech, which went 9-5 in 2002. Jones has a chance to take over Krenzel's crown as the most recent national champion quarterback for OSU.
The Heisman winner
Let's start off with the last quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy for the Buckeyes, Troy Smith. Smith, like Jones, had his first career start in the middle of a season. Smith débuted for the Buckeyes against Indiana in October 2004, and he had 161 passing yards with two touchdowns and 58 rushing yards, as the Buckeyes won, 30-7. Beating the Hoosiers wasn't a huge prize for that year, as Indiana only went 3-8, but a win's a win with a rookie QB.
Smith's second start was also a victory, a 21-10 win over Penn State, but one that will hardly set a boxscore on fire. The Buckeyes were held to only 202 total yards, and Troy Smith only threw for 59 yards (on 6-8 passing), while rushing for another 26 on 12 carries. The Buckeyes got a pick six and just enough from their running game to get the win. Penn State would finish 4-7 that season.
Smith's first two starts were not nearly as electrifying or important as Jones' first two starts, but Smith found a way to win two straight Big Ten games for an Ohio State team that had lost three straight. Smith never won the national championship under center, but hopefully Jones can fare better in his championship game than Smith did.
Everyone knew his name before he arrived on campus, and everyone wanted to curse his name as he left campus in a Nissan 350Z, Terrelle Pryor. Pryor had so much hype around him that many thought he would come to Ohio State and lead the Buckeyes to multiple championship seasons. Pryor lead the Buckeyes to quite a bit of success, including a Rose Bowl title and a BCS bowl win over an SEC team, but wasn't quite able to get them over the hump and into the promised land. Of course, Pryor's Buckeye legacy is more complicated for lots of other reasons too.
His first two starts were similar to Troy Smith's first two. Pryor relieved a quarterback in the middle of the season who had been struggling. Pryor threw for 139 yards (on 10-16 passing), four touchdowns, a pick and 66 rushing yards in a 28-10 victory over Troy, who could go on to win the Sun Belt title. The four touchdown passes was an Ohio State record in a game for a freshman.
Also similar to Smith, Pryor had smaller stats in his second start but did get a 34-21 win over Minnesota. Pryor completed 8-13 passes for 70 yards and a score,while also rushing for 97 yards and two more touchdowns, all while splitting snaps with the struggling Todd Boeckman. Minnesota finished the season 7-6, but it's always nice to grab your first Big Ten victory in only your second start, especially when Ohio State's personnel and the Tressel era offense required a more conservative game plan.
Pryor shares some similar physical attributes with Jones, in that they're both big dudes with bigger arms, and both had strong success in their first start. They're very different players though (nobody would accuse Cardale Jones of being a run-first quarterback like Pryor was at first). Hopefully Jones has a slightly different career trajectory.
Again, Ohio State has a young quarterback take over in the middle of the season, but this time it is the Ohio native, Braxton Miller. Miller's first two starts came under interim head coach Luke Fickell during one of OSU's worst seasons in recent memory, as they went 6-7 in 2011, thanks to a suspension-stripped roster, coaching instability, and plain ol' bad luck.
Miller did grab a 37-17 victory against Colorado in his first career start with Ohio State. He didn't air it out much (a bit of a theme here), as Miller completed 5-13 passes for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards on 17 carries. Colorado sucked that year (3-8), but in a lot of ways, so did Ohio State. Miller was then rudely awakened to Big Ten play when the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State, a team that finished 11-3, 10-7, the following week. Miller, in part due to nine Spartan sacks, had -27 rushing yards, only 56 passing yards (on 5-10 passing), no touchdowns, and one interception as he was relieved by Joe Bauserman, who threw the Buckeyes' only touchdown in the loss.
We all know that Braxton Miller has gone onto have a great Ohio State career, but his second career start was a much rockier road than Jones' game against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Jones relieved J.T. Barrett in the Michigan game and went on to win his first two games against Wisconsin (11-3) and Alabama (12-2), but Jones had the luxury of having a much better developed offensive line and a defense that is currently playing its best football of the entire season. Jones has fared very well, and out of these quarterbacks he has had the best wins and statistics in his first two starts. Here's how they all look together in their first career starts, and keep in mind, only Barrett and Jones were playing in Urban Meyer system in their first career starts.
|Pass yds||Pass TDs||INT||Rush yds||Rush TDs||Third start result|
Jones now looks to face off against the Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota, but he has also led the Buckeyes to victories against the Heisman runner-up (Melvin Gordon) and second runner-up (Amari Cooper). We will just have to wait and see what happens on the field Monday in Jones' third start.