COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is value in secrecy, and Ohio State still has no intention of revealing who it will start at quarterback until it’s absolutely necessary.
That, obviously, leaves Virginia Tech in the unenviable position of needing to prepare for either a dual-threat option who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy race, a rifle-armed passer who went undefeated in three postseason starts -- or perhaps even both of them.
And while there might be something of a slight edge gained by keeping that information private from his opponent on Monday night, at this point Urban Meyer’s ability to keep it locked away isn’t so much about keeping the Hokies from coming up with a plan for success as much as it is giving himself the maximum amount of time to formulate one for the Buckeyes.
“It’s still very close, both guys are performing very well,” Meyer said during his Monday news conference. “If it was different skill sets, we probably would [need to decide], but they’re not. If you look at J.T.’s game plan when he was our quarterback and Cardale’s, it was very similar. There’s a chance they’ll both play, as well, so that hasn’t really [been a factor] with our mindset with a game plan on offense.
“I imagined if one of them was way ahead I probably would announce it, but they’re not. It’s more for our team than who we’re playing.”
There are a few notable differences between the candidates, though preparing for one guy instead of the other likely wouldn’t require a significant overhaul in Virginia Tech’s approach to attempting to slow down the high-powered Buckeyes, just like Meyer isn’t stressing over what might be minor adjustments depending on his decision behind center.
Jones does have the stronger arm and stretched the field better than Barrett against some stout competition at the end of last season. Barrett looked more capable of breaking off explosive runs in the zone-read game and has been widely praised for his ability to accurately and quickly distribute the football as a passer. But both Jones and Barrett are threats to run the ball, both know all the intricacies of the playbook, and both are skilled enough passers that the passing game wouldn’t need to dramatically change depending on who takes the snaps.
That instead has left Meyer with a bit of a different problem than he seemed to be anticipating when the training-camp competition started. Now that two guys with similar traits and little-to-no separation between them have earned the right to play, the Buckeyes appear to be using at least some of the time they have left to prepare for the Hokies by figuring out the logistics of potentially playing them both.
“We’re still debating that,” Meyer said. “At this point, it’s about at the moment who can [give the best shot to win] -- and they both have won. I don’t know J.T.’s record, but it’s pretty good. Cardale, I believe, is 3-0. So who gives us at the moment a chance to win?
“It could be an in-game [adjustment], it could be weekly, too. ... I think I have to do what’s best for the team in the moment. You have two very good players that are very invested, so who has the best chance of moving the team down the field and putting them in the end zone? That is kind of the mindset I have right now.”
If that approach continues to leave the door open for both Jones and Barrett to lead the Ohio State offense, the Hokies won’t be the only team needing to prepare for more than one trophy-winning quarterback this season.
Meyer may not have figured out all the details quite yet, but a plan for defending the national title that includes a two-quarterback system might be coming together in time for the opener. And after that, there won’t be any more secrets once the Buckeyes finally hit the field.