After half a season of often inconsistent play from Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, a change is at hand.
Redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett will make his first start of the season Saturday when the defending national champion Buckeyes play at Rutgers, head coach Urban Meyer announced on Tuesday.
Barrett has played effectively and frequently as a backup this season, and came off the bench to lead Ohio State's 38-10 win over Penn State last week. Jones' play has been more erratic, and in particular, the Buckeyes offense has been slow-starting this year under Jones. The Buckeyes have scored 38 first-quarter points this year with Jones as the starter, by far its lowest-scoring quarter for the season (72 in the second, 62 in the third, 87 in the fourth). Jones has accounted for just two first-quarter touchdowns on the year, both of them passing.
"This isn't a surprise," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of the decision. "Jones was so impressive last season, but we haven't seen the same guy this season. He looks completely out of rhythm and his decision making has been rough. He has tools that are very enticing to NFL scouts, but he's incredibly raw."
Meyer indicated Tuesday that the Buckeyes would continue playing both quarterbacks, noting that Jones' role would be "very active," according to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch. As for the reason for the decision, Meyer cited Barrett's third-down and red-zone efficiency, along with "sheer production."
"What goes on between the players is between us. There's disappointment, but they're grown men," Meyer said, per Rabinowitz.
Jones and Barrett both indicated before the season that they would prefer not to be part of a two-quarterback system in 2015. That's the system Meyer has chosen for them, though, and the coach's indication that Jones will continue to play suggests the OSU staff isn't writing Jones off as a potential asset in a push for a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff run.
The tea leaves said the move was coming.
After Barrett outperformed Jones again against the Nittany Lions, accounting for two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs, Meyer hedged on the quarterback question in postgame remarks. He was more sure of himself Monday, but did not reveal the decision.
Last year, Jones replaced an injured Barrett, who had led the team to an 11-1 regular season, with three consecutive postseason wins for a national championship.