Looking Back at Ohio State's Backup Quarterbacks Throughout the Urban Meyer Era

By Kevin Harrish on May 23, 2017 at 10:10 am
Kenny Guiton stole the hearts of money during his Buckeye days.

Ohio State has a backup quarterback battle on its hands this offseason as incumbent Joe Burrow and redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins are competing for the role as J.T. Barrett's understudy in 2017.

With that battle taking place, we decided to take a look back at the backup quarterbacks during each of Meyer's five seasons.

Turns out, whoever wins the job has an awful lot to live up to before they even win the starting spot.

Kenny Guiton (2012-13)

To be honest, we could probably end the list here because there's no backup quarterback quite like Kenny Guiton, especially since he really was that — a backup quarterback. Throughout his five-year Buckeye career, Guiton was never the starter, save for two games when he filled in for an injured Braxton Miller in 2013.

That's what makes his career so remarkable. He put up eye-popping numbers, broke multiple records and displayed iconic late-game heroics — all as a career backup.

Throughout his Buckeye career, Guiton threw for 893 yards and 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions for a quarterback rating of 155.5 — higher than Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. He was a dual threat too, rushing for 383 yards and six touchdowns on 53 carries. And he didn't do it in garbage time, either. Guiton started two games and played many meaningful snaps whenever Miller's helmet came off or he was momentarily shaken up.

Despite only starting two games in his career, Guiton owns two Ohio State records. He threw for a school-record six touchdown passes against Florida A&M (a record Barrett matched against Kent State in 2014) and threw a 90-yard bomb to Devin Smith during the 2013 game against California, which is still the longest play from scrimmage in school history.

Of course, none of that was what made Kenny G a Buckeye legend. That happened in 2012 when Guiton saved Ohio State's undefeated season with his late-game heroics against Purdue.

J.T. Barrett (2014-15)

J.T. Barrett's career as a backup quarterback is unique to say the least. He went from third string to backup to starter in a span of about three days, then was the backup again a year later and finished the season as the starter.

Even though he was the opening day starter in 2014, he didn't earn that role, it was given to him after Braxton Miller's shoulder injury. Because of that, I'm calling him a backup quarterback in 2014, and as a backup and a redshirt freshman, he had one of the best seasons of any Buckeye quarterback ever.

Barrett set 19 records that 2014 season — two Big Ten and 17 Ohio State —compiling a school-record 3,772 total yards and Big Ten-record 45 touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year following the season and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.

Of course, Barrett's magical season came to an early end when he injured his ankle against Michigan, paving the way for the next person on our list to cement his Buckeye legacy.

Barrett became the backup quarterback again for a brief time to start the 2015 season. He came in for mop-up duty early in the season, then became the team's red zone specialist a few games in and eventually retook the starting job midway through the season.

Cardale Jones (2014-15)

There's a technicality here — if we already established that I'm calling J.T. Barrett the backup quarterback in 2014, wouldn't that make Cardale Jones the third-string quarterback and disqualify that season from making this list?

Yeah, probably. But let's not think too hard about this. He was the backup for the guy who started every game until he got injured, it works. Plus, did you really think I was going to write this list without including The Iron King, Cardale Jones, First of His Name, Poacher of Badgers, Controller of Tides, Slayer of Ducks, Troll Sultan, and 12th Son of Ohio?

Many people thought Ohio State's season was over when J.T. Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan. After all, the Buckeyes already got a season for the ages out of a backup quarterback. There was no way another one was going to have the same success.

Turns out, many people were wrong.

Jones, making his first career start, recreated the Doolittle Raid against Wisconsin — one of the nation's top defenses — throwing 12-for-17 for 257 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for an eye-popping quarterback rating of 255.8.

Then, he went ahead and did it again against the nation's top team, passing for 243 yards and a touchdown and then one more time in the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game, throwing for 248 yards and a touchdown.

In his first three starts, Jones threw for 742 yards, five touchdowns and just two interceptions against the three best teams the Buckeyes faced that season. That is a performance from a backup quarterback that nobody will ever match ever.

Jones returned to school the following year and he and Barrett took turns being the best backup quarterback in college football history during the 2015 season.

Joe Burrow (2016)

It's pretty impossible to follow all of that, especially when you only played in garbage time, but Joe Burrow's first season as a backup quarterback was not bad.

Burrow really only played mop-up duty for starter J.T. Barrett, and it's hard to fault him for that, especially when he performed so well when he was in.

Out of all the quarterbacks we talked about, Burrow has the highest completion percentage (78.6), the highest quarterback rating (169.9), the most adjusted passing yards per attempt (9.5). Of course, it helps that he played meaningless minutes against inferior opponents' second teams, but those numbers are still good.

Perhaps if Burrow wins the backup job this fall, he'll have a chance to further his Buckeye backup quarterbacking legacy.

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