The quarterback battle at Ohio State, if nothing else, gives Buckeye fans plenty to talk about this off-season. But for the rest of the Big Ten, uncertainty about who will be under center this fall is causing much hand-wringing and consternation.
Regardless of whether its Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett at QB, Ohio State's general playbook shouldn't drastically change. The style of play will be quite different, however. Barrett is the better runner of the two; he adds another shifty wrinkle to the backfield. Jones has a better long-range game, and can pick up more short yards by barreling ahead. Barrett has more experience managing a game. Cardale has proved he can handle the pressure of big-time moments. The different strengths of these two players command defensive adjustments -- deep coverage is key when facing Cardale, while setting the edge and containing Barrett is necessary when he's in the backfield.
There's other differences, too. Cardale Jones is famous for his remarkable three-game performance in last year's post-season, but the only Big Ten team with any experience facing Jones is Wisconsin. Jones came in on mop-up duty during garbage time in some games, but he had less than 15 pass attempts before the Michigan game. He didn't even play against Michigan State, Minnesota and Indiana. So while there may be some game tape on Cardale now, Ohio State's conference opponents this year have really never faced him on the field.
Barrett is more of a known quantity -- more Big Ten teams have faced him during meaningful game minutes and there's more tape on him. Teams have a better idea of how to prepare for Barrett's play style because they know what that is.
While not suggesting that every Big Ten team is scheming during fall camp know how to beat Ohio State, the teams in the Buckeyes' division know the road to Indianapolis goes through Columbus, and coaching staffs from Maryland to Michigan are no doubt at least starting to develop a game plan for beating the Buckeyes. It's to consider that game plan until you know which of Ohio State's superb QBs you're going to face.
Urban Meyer was predictably tight-lipped about who's going to be QB1 when the season rolls around, but he acknowledged that the option of putting either player on the field is a real boon for Ohio State.
"The first guy that jogs out at Blacksburg will be the starting quarterback," Meyer told reporters at last week's Big Ten Media Days. He also added that the team is keeping score of "everything" and will base the final decision of a mix of the subjective and objective alike.
The longer the mystery surrounding Ohio State's QB continues, the better it is for Ohio State. So keep the Woody Hayes Athletic Center locked up tight, and remind those players that loose lips sink ships. Let's keep the secret of Ohio State's quarterback for as long as possible.