Yours truly participated in a roundtable discussion for The Student Section today, in which I tabbed Ohio State’s Cardale Jones as the Power Five Conference quarterback around whom I would build a program. Read on for my reasoning why, though with Big Ten and College Football Playoff championships to his name, it shouldn’t take much to understand.
Of course, the obvious elephant in the room with that choice is the next time we see Cardale Jones start at quarterback is in 2016 for an NFL franchise.
Hell, he could have made the leap immediately after leading the Buckeyes to commanding postseason wins over Alabama and Oregon but opted to return to Ohio State to pursue his degree.
His return puts Cardale Jones in the most intriguing spring quarterback competition in recent memory.
Sure, other races have featured multiple talented playmakers vying for one spot. Other competitions have been shrouded in more mystery — Rich Rodriguez’s 2013 starter, for example, wasn’t announced until literally the first snap of the season opener.
But never has their been a main-event three-way dance of this magnitude, wherein two legitimate Heisman Trophy contenders and a national championship-winner squared off for one spot.
Each of Jones’ predecessors, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, were at one time in the conversation as college football’s top playmakers.
Riding the momentum of an outstanding 2013, Miller went into last spring with no doubts about his job. The bigger question for him was if he’d do enough to wrest away the Heisman from Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
But Ohio State did not miss a beat when Miller was lost to a shoulder injury and J.T. Barrett took over. In fact, Barrett seamlessly jumped into the Heisman conversation Miller was a part of previously.
Cardale Jones flirting with the NFL draft and Braxton Miller as seemingly the quintessential candidate for a one-year transfer might have made the spring somewhat less stressful for Urban Meyer.
Now, choosing between one of three proven stars might seem unenviable. But the moment Meyer’s choice as starter falters even slightly in 2015, the pressure will be on to make a switch.
Likewise, whomever lands the job come September won’t just have opposing defensive linemen bearing down on him. One of two outstanding teammates will loom — and, if that’s Cardale Jones, that might as well be like having an extra defensive end blitzing.
Miller seems destined to become Ohio State’s Wally Pipp. The conversation ahead of the Buckeyes’ offseason has been less about Miller’s chance to regain the starting job he held for three seasons, but rather if he should switch positions.
Moreover, Miller has just one year of eligibility remaining. Opting for either Jones or Barrett isn’t just a move for Ohio State’s repeat national championship chances; it’s also a possible investment in building dynasty.
But then, to that end, J.T. Barrett is the safer choice. Barrett will be a redshirt sophomore in 2015, which technically makes him eligible for the NFL draft by season’s end.
However, he’s a year younger than Cardale Jones, whose entry into the 2016 NFL Draft seems like a foregone conclusion after his flirtations this year. Considering Barrett is small by NFL quarterback standards, he likely needs to build as substantial a resume as he can before testing the waters.
So J.T. Barrett might very well be the best option to start at Ohio State next season. Nevertheless, Cardale Jones is the quarterback I would most want captaining my team.