The Ruckus: QB Situation Sorts Itself
“Bucksline” has been an institution on the radio over the years and one of the more popular midweek sports programs, especially for Ohio State fans getting geared up for Saturday.
Local radio station 610 WTVN, which carries the largest AM signal in central Ohio, has aired the show on Thursday night during football season for years and years, rotating several analysts into the panel.
On Oct. 22 – two days prior to OSU’s roadie at Rutgers and two days after head coach Urban Meyer announced he was making a switch with his starting quarterback – “Bucksline” got lively at the Buffalo Wild Wings on Bethel Road as sports director Matt McCoy, former Ohio State quarterback Stan Jackson and SportsRappUp.com editor Jeff Rapp hashed out various topics.
They broke down the state of the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes, assessed the offense, summed up the wild finish in the Michigan-Michigan State game, touched on the targeting rule and peered into the Big Ten race. But, of course, the show zipped into gear early with plenty of discussion about the quarterbacks.
Last year’s postseason hero, Cardale Jones started during Ohio State’s 7-0 start and actually had a few statistical edges over J.T Barrett this season. Still, Meyer did what many fans had been clamoring for weeks ago by moving Barrett back into the starting role he handled so ably during the 2014 regular season.
Barrett was responsible for a Big Ten-record 45 touchdowns last season before breaking his right ankle against Michigan. If his season would have continued he would have added a 1,000-yard rushing season to his highly impressive passing figures.
Heading into his first start of 2015, Barrett was getting back into a groove, especially running the football as he was averaging a robust 7.9 yards per carry.
Jackson, who is familiar with sharing the QB duties from his time in the 1990s when Joe Germaine also was in the mix, saw value in the move to Barrett.
“I think if you look at what we do offensively, J.T. fits us a little better,” Jackson said. “We are a spread offense, and J.T. has the ability to be more explosive (in it), he reads the zone read a little better, and I think he fits what we’re trying to accomplish.
“The reality is Cardale Jones is a pro-style quarterback. He’s a guy that play-action pass works well with him, he’s big, he’s hard to tackle in the pocket, he has a big arm … and that’s not what we do.
“So I think this is more about J.T. and less about Cardale. It’s not an indictment of how he’s playing.”
Rapp looked at the issue from a different angle, but also came to the conclusion that Barrett was the man for the job.
“Cardale Jones has not lost a game as a starter,” Rapp started, “has had some big games, believe it or not has a better quarterback rating than J.T. – if anyone puts any stock into that – has a slightly better passing percentage, was the starting quarterback on the No. 1 team in the country that’s still undefeated and has been winning by 21 points a game.
“So why are you making a change? Has anyone ever made a change in that situation?
“But with all of that said, to me it makes a lot of sense. We said this was going to be a strange and unusual and unique situation going in and it still is. I’m Camp J.T. I have been. I’m not anti-Cardale. With J.T. I’m sold on what he can do.”
Rapp alluded to Meyer answering a question earlier in the week in which he agreed with a reporter’s assessment that Barrett may not have been completely ready to seize the job at the outset of the season. That drew a reaction from Jackson.
“You’re not going to be as sharp if you don’t get the reps,” he said. “That’s the challenge that Cardale is going to have, too. Without getting maximum reps, you’re not going to be as good. That’s why teams don’t like to do this if you can pick one because there just aren’t enough reps to go around.”
Jackson also related to the fact that Jones was being demoted after going 10-0 as a starter and proving he had big-play capability. Jackson started OSU’s first 10 games in 1996, all wins, but then-head coach John Cooper started Germaine over him against Michigan. The Buckeyes lost that contest, 13-9 and ended up No. 2 in the country that season.
“It’s pretty unfortunate that you’re talking to the right guy here because I’ve had to endure one of those conversations,” Jackson said of Meyer having to inform Jones of the change. “It didn’t work out when we made the switch but we waited a little too late I think.”
Of Meyer, Jackson added, “You can tell he has a heavy heart, but at the end of the day he has to do what’s best for the team.”
Rapp tossed out the idea that Jones might want to consider facing reporters just to assure followers of the team that he would be on board with the move.
“If he’s not ready to say that, don’t make him go do that,” Rapp said. “(But) you don’t want to wonder what’s bubbling underneath there. If he can put any of that to rest, and maybe it would help. But it’s still a tough situation. Anyone could see that.”
That prompted Jackson to respond by saying, “Don’t blow the dust off your computer just yet and expect that press conference to happen. Coach Meyer protects these guys like you can’t believe.”
It turned out that Jones played only mop-up duty because Barrett was in total control in the 49-7 win at Rutgers. Much like in the 56-17 victory over the Scarlet Knights last season, Barrett was a wrecking ball with five touchdowns – three in the air and two on the ground. He threw for 223 yards and ran for 101. He also dispersed the ball with aplomb as Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Curtis Samuel and Jalin Marshall all joined him in reaching the end zone.
Afterward, the praise came far and wide, starting with Meyer.
“I think he’s in full swing now,” the head coach said.
On “Bucksline,” Jackson pointed out the Buckeyes already were on a good arc.
“Right now this team’s as good as it was at this point last year, maybe better,” he said. “The challenge is the expectation.”
Those lofty expectations just rose some more after OSU’s total domination at High Points Solutions Stadium.
Since this column is called The Ruckus, you can hear the full back-and-forth of the “Bucksline” conversation by clicking the link below and going to McCoy’s Sports Blog: