Regular readers (and listeners) of CFBHuddle.com know I’m very high on Ohio State quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. The preceding sentence probably reads similarly to a lede of “The sky was blue today,” but perhaps it’s not so obvious that Urban Meyer has the best quarterback situation in college football. At least, it’s not so obvious to Brian Kelly, who described the Notre Dame QB situation to BlueAndGold.com thusly:
“There are certain areas that I think at the quarterback position, maybe other than Ohio State, I would take our two quarterbacks. I would take our two over Ohio State’s, but in terms of depth, I don’t know that anybody has a better situation than we do with the two quarterbacks that we have.”
Huh. Well, no one can accuse Brian Kelly of not having his players’ backs, but comparing the Notre Dame QB duo of Everett Golson and Malik Zaire to Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller is certainly bold.
To be fair to the Fighting Irish head coach, early into the 2014 campaign, he may have had an argument. Golson looked like a Heisman front-runner for the better part of two months into the season, throwing 19 touchdown passes and rushing for another four scores in September and October.
However, Golson was brutal down the stretch. He threw eight interceptions in the month of November, including four in a loss at Arizona State. He looked completely out of sorts against the Sun Devils, and that set an ominous tone for the Irish’s finish. The loss in Tempe was the first of four straight defeats that closed out the regular season and eventually led Kelly to replace Golson with Zaire.
Zaire officially came on in a No. 1 capacity at USC, a game I covered live, and the once highly touted prospect injected some life into what was an otherwise listless Notre Dame offense.
Zaire also led the Irish to a Music City Bowl win over LSU, throwing one touchdown pass and rushing for one. It was readily apparent in the bowl win, however, that Kelly and then-offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock were much more conservative with Zaire than with Golson. Zaire may not be as turnover prone as his teammate, but his ceiling thus far appears to be lower.
Conversely at Ohio State, Cardale Jones has seemingly only scratched the surface of his lofty potential. A veritable Create-A-Player, Jones is a cannon-armed passer with the ground-attacking capabilities of an armored Humvee.
And yet, even after leading the Buckeyes to impressive wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in succession, there’s no guarantee he’ll be Ohio State’s starter. That’s how good J.T. Barrett is.
The Ohio State QB competition is a much different beast than the Notre Dame QB competition. Really, in no way is Ohio State vs. Notre Dame a fair comparison — not yet, at least.
We’ll get a telling look at Notre Dame’s offense right out of the gate in 2015. The Irish open with Texas, one of the nation’s most talented defensive rosters, operating under the tutelage of Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford — two of the sharpest defensive minds in the game.
Perhaps if either Golson or Zaire skewers the Longhorns, we can revisit this conversation. In the meantime, Brian Kelly is mistaken.