Since becoming a head coach in 2001, Meyer has coached the likes of former Bowling Green star Josh Harris, first-overall NFL draft pick Alex Smith, national champion Chris Leak and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow before even coming to Columbus.
Meyer said Saturday that all of those quarterbacks had one unique quality that set them apart.
“No. 1, they’re all competitors, and they’re all guys that have bought into the system and really learned well,” Meyer said. “Obviously they’re talented, but each one had such different talents.”
Now, Meyer enters the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship with two Big Ten quarterbacks of the year on his roster, neither of whom will take the field at AT&T Stadium Monday night.
Senior quarterback Braxton Miller, who was a back-to-back winner of the Big Ten’s player of the year award, was lost for the season just more than a week before the start of the season when he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett entered, and put up better numbers than Miller, breaking school and conference records on his way to finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
But after Barrett went down for the year with a fractured ankle in a 42-28 win over Michigan to cap the regular season, it was redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones’ turn to take control of the offense.
Jones didn’t seem to bat an eye at the challenge as he led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in his first collegiate start in the Big Ten title game, which had many wondering how OSU kept pumping out star-studded talent under center.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said Saturday that it doesn’t seem to matter who is at quarterback in a Meyer-coached team, because Meyer and his staff play to the signal-caller’s strength.
“I think they’ve done a great job of adapting to all those guys. Alex Smith did some great things, but they always had the quarterback power element running game,” Helfrich said. “Same with obviously Tim Tebow, all the other guys at Florida, so I think it’s just a matter of having a system that they believe in a ton, and then you always have to tweak things to the strengths and the confidence of your quarterback, and they do that well.”
Jones’ strength seems to be obvious, especially to him and his teammates as the nickname ‘12-gauge’ has become popular since his rise to the top of the OSU depth chart.
The nickname comes from Jones’ ability to throw the long-ball as he said he is capable of throwing a football up to 85 yards.
Meyer said that because of Jones’ ability to sling the ball downfield, OSU has tweaked its style of play.
“I think to sit in the pocket is one of the most difficult things to do, especially against how good the defenses are nowadays,” Meyer said. “Although (with) Cardale, because we have that kind of body now, we’re a little bit more of a pocket team.”
Despite making just his third start, Jones said Saturday that — with the title game just two days away — he is relaxed and ready for the game to start.
“You know, pretty calm, cool, collected right now,” Jones said. “But as we get closer, you see guys get a little jittery, guys getting a little more antsy just to put the uniform on, and then when the uniform is on, all that goes away.”
The Glenville High School product added that while Barrett and Miller are in Dallas with the team, he does not discuss the game play with them much, if at all.
“We’re just making sure that even when Braxton and J.T. was the starter, we just stayed on each other about knowing what was going on in every situation. But they don’t coach me,” Jones said. “They don’t let me know what to do. The best advice they gave me was to play within yourself and do what you’ve got to do.”
While it has only been two games, all Jones has done is win, and that is exactly what he will try to do one more time this season and the Buckeyes and Ducks are set to play for the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship Monday at 8:30 p.m. in Arlington, Texas.