With the one-game suspension of Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett following a Saturday morning drunk-driving citation, the door has opened for redshirt junior Cardale Jones to come off the bench and lead the offense.
It is a situation the Cleveland native is more than familiar with after filling in for the final three games of last season, but not likely one he expected just one game after losing his starting job for the first time.
Still, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he has complete faith in Jones.
“Cardale had a great week of practice last week, he’s engaged, he handled everything like a man,” Meyer said. “He threw for 300 yards a couple weeks ago at a 75 percent clip. He’s 10-0 as a starter. That’s not even a hesitation.”
Despite Meyer’s confidence in Jones, senior left tackle Taylor Decker said the absence of Barrett could affect the offense for OSU (8-0, 4-0) that was improving each game.
“I think it does affect our momentum,” Decker said. “We were getting J.T. in there more and more and we were improving week to week, but at the same time I don’t think it was just J.T. getting in there that affected our momentum. I think everyone was playing better.”
That start for Jones is set to come on Saturday against visiting Minnesota (4-4, 1-3).
OSU has won eight consecutive meetings with the Golden Gophers, but Decker said OSU expects a very tough matchup with the road team, which is led by the 25th ranked defense in the country.
“It could be one of the toughest games for us thus far this year,” Decker said.
If something were to happen to Jones on Saturday, Meyer said another former starting quarterback would step in: redshirt senior Braxton Miller.
Miller, a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, started at quarterback for the Buckeyes for three seasons before a shoulder injury and the emergences of Barrett and Jones forced him to switch positions to H-back.
The Huber Heights, Ohio, native is yet to throw a downfield pass this season, but Meyer said the decision to slot him as the backup over redshirt freshman Stephen Collier was an easy one.
“There’s no question that he’s our No. 2 quarterback,” Meyer said.
Meyer said no decision had been made as of Monday as to if Miller would be behind center in the red zone, as Barrett did for the final two weeks of Jones’ original stint as the starter.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
About the Gophers
Minnesota’s season has been marked by several strong performances and several duds.
The Golden Gophers put scares in No. 8 TCU in the season opener and, last week, No. 17 Michigan, losing by six and three points, respectively.
However, a trio of three-point wins over the Mountain West’s Colorado State and the Mid-American Conference’s Kent State and Ohio showed that Minnesota has oftentimes looked better in losses than wins this season.
Minnesota’s interim coach, Tracy Claeys, is set to lead his team for the second consecutive game after stepping in following the sudden retirement of former coach Jerry Kill.
The players rallied around Claeys in his first game, coming within a yard of upsetting Michigan. Meyer said he expects that same passion on the road in Columbus.
“I think that they played their best game (against Michigan),” Meyer said. “They were very inspired, they played tremendous in that game on both sides of the ball against a very good team. So, I think they’re an excellent team. They’re hitting their stride right now as well.”
A season ago, Minnesota put up a fight against the Buckeyes in Minneapolis, though OSU came away with a 31-24 victory. Barrett was responsible for 389 yards and four touchdowns in the game.
That contest marked the last time OSU junior running back Ezekiel Elliott failed to rush for over 100 yards, as he finished with 91. The St. Louis native has eclipsed the century mark in 13 consecutive games since.
Webb is back
During Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference, Meyer revealed that sophomore cornerback Damon Webb’s suspension has been lifted and he could return to action on Saturday.
Webb played in each of OSU’s first two games, picking up eight tackles, before being suspended for an undisclosed violation of a team policy before the Buckeyes’ Week 3 game against Northern Illinois.
Webb’s return comes as a necessity for an OSU secondary that has lost junior safety Cam Burrows and, as Meyer also announced on Tuesday, sophomore safety Erick Smith for the season.
Webb did not appear on OSU’s weekly depth chart, but Meyer indicated during the teleconference that he will see the field against the Golden Gophers.
Meyer also said on Monday that junior H-back Dontre Wilson and redshirt freshman receiver Parris Campbell are questionable on Saturday, while redshirt freshman receiver Johnnie Dixon is out following a knee injury.
After the matchup with Minnesota, OSU is scheduled to head to Champaign, Illinois, for a meeting with the Fighting Illini. Kickoff is slated for either noon or 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 14.