DALLAS — No coach in college football has dealt with as much adversity at the quarterback position in a single season as Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, but he has no doubt his third-stringer Cardale Jones can get the job done in the national championship game against Oregon on Monday.
Not even the transfer rumors of his three-year starter Braxton Miller were on his mind.
"I do expect Braxton to return," Meyer said on Sunday.
The only signal-caller he’s worried about is Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota on the other side of the field.
"Our No. 1 concern is their quarterback," Meyer said. "I think he’s one of the finest that’s ever played the game, and that’s our biggest issue."
While it’s remarkable how well Jones has played in just two starts, it really hasn’t been a surprise to Meyer. J.T. Barrett led Ohio State to a perfect regular season, but Jones could have easily been the guy to fill in for Miller instead.
"He actually won the job in the spring," Meyer said. "Then August came over, summer training, and J.T. beat him out.
"Cardale has always had talent, but really something happened in the last couple months. Not many people on a grand stage like Cardale has and he pushed the restart and hit the right button, and that’s called selfless approach and a serious approach of how he handles business on and off the field."
When Barrett went out with an injury against Michigan, the Buckeyes just reloaded at quarterback, again. After Jones put to rest any doubts about Ohio State’s worthiness of a playoff spot following the Big Ten Championship Game, he shocked the world and his coach in the Sugar Bowl.
"Before the Alabama Wednesday practice, I remember him walking off the field again, look at Tom [Herman] and just saying, ‘my goodness, that’s one of the best practices I’ve ever seen a player have,’" Meyer said. "He’s got the keys to the car, and the way he handles his business is just extraordinary, the change he’s made in his approach to the game.
"That’s one of the greatest stories I’ve witnessed. Like I’ve told people, of all the things that my children learn in school, I want them to read about the case study of Cardale Jones because it’s a great one."
And if Jones outplays the Heisman Trophy winner on Monday, it might be one of the greatest college football stories ever told.