A lot of people don’t envy Urban Meyer for having the “good problem” of selecting a starting quarterback this fall between three dynamic players who have all proven themselves. Every team wants a stud quarterback, and it’s always nice to have a capable backup, but Ohio State, coming off a national championship, has an unprecedented issue when it comes to the QB battle.
Assuming Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett are both fully fit to battle with Cardale Jones, the fight for the QB1 position may be one of the last ones settled coming out of fall camp. And maybe that’s a “good problem” too.
As most Buckeye fans are aware, Virginia Tech is the first game up for the Buckeyes this fall, and Ohio State has a little unfinished business with the Hokies on the evening of Monday, Sept. 7. As the only team that handled the Buckeyes during last season’s title run, Virginia Tech’s insolence must be dealt with in as severe a manner possible.
Maybe keeping a few secrets can help make that payback a reality. By not declaring a starter, Frank Beamer and Bud Foster will have to devote practice time to all three scenarios. They might realistically expect to play the same way against Miller and Barrett, but Jones presents a different kettle of fish, altogether.
Preparation for the opposing quarterback is a big deal. If you’re not fully prepared and know exactly what to expect, things can go badly. Just ask Alabama.
Miller and Barrett run the offense in a similar way, but they each have their own style. Miller takes responsibility for making plays and wants the ball in key situations. Barrett is a distributor and prefers to use the weapons around him, finding the right tool for the job when presented with the problem of solving the defense. Both are effective in different ways and both can kill you on any given play—when you think you’ve got the play diagnosed, Miller makes a video game move and takes it to the house, while Barrett sticks a dagger in you by finding the one man for which you didn’t account.
Jones is more of a traditional drop-back passer, but also has the ability to make plays by simply running over you and being faster than you expect a big man to be. As Crimson Tide Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart said in the article linked above,
“This guy was just lumbering and big and ran through arm tackles, even on our big, physical defense.”
Yeah, that’s Dolodale in a nutshell. Also, he can throw the ball 70 yards to that fast guy you thought you only had to cover for about 40-45 yards and is now behind your safeties.
So, you’ve got a two-time B1G MVP, a record-setting redshirt sophomore who now has a full season of experience and knowledge under his belt—not to mention a first-hand account of what Virginia Tech did last year—and a guy who has won all three of his career starts, under the most intense pressure college football has to offer.
Getting back to Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes learned a lot from that loss. While other teams may not have had the personnel to play the way the Hokies did against Ohio State last year, the coaching staff spent a lot of time preparing their team for that kind of defense, which they were able to shred regularly when other teams tried it. Granted, not everyone has the athleticism Virginia Tech has, but the first step toward beating what your opponent is doing is to understand it.
The Buckeyes now understand what Bud Foster was trying to do. They’ll be ready. The offensive line hadn’t yet coalesced for the meeting last season. This year, four fifths of the starting line returns and the Slobs will be out for blood for what happened last year. Playing defense the same way will most likely not be good enough and Foster will have to add more wrinkles. But which wrinkles he should add depends a lot on who the Hokies will be facing at quarterback.
Ohio State not announcing a starting quarterback will force Foster into spending time preparing for all three. So, the Hokies will potentially be wasting part of their practice time on a situation they may not see in the game. Meyer, Ed Warinner and Tim Beck should make their decision as early as possible to give the starter a chance to settle in and to rally the team around that player. But they should play it coy all preseason about who that selection is.
And that won't be easy. National media will be hounding Meyer and his staff every day about who will start. If you're not already sick of hearing about it, and you probably are, you will be shortly after camp starts. There will be a lot of pressure to name a starter but Meyer and his staff should keep that information under wraps.
Doing so will split Foster’s attention, and by dividing the Hokies’ practice time, it will make it easier for Ohio State to conquer Blacksburg and exact revenge on Virginia Tech.