Ohio State football fans probably remember the 2006 Florida team led by Urban Meyer. The Gators shellacked the then-No. 1 Buckeyes, 41-14, in the BCS National Championship Game that year, after all.
Nearly a decade later, Meyer is on the Buckeyes’ side, and he might be evoking some of his old tactics for OSU in the upcoming season.
The Buckeyes are the defending College Football Playoff National Champions, but they have a question mark at quarterback despite returning three successful players at the position. With redshirt-senior Braxton Miller, redshirt-junior Cardale Jones and redshirt-sophomore J.T. Barrett all back on the roster with starting experience, Meyer will likely be forced to sit two quarterbacks who have Heisman-caliber potential.
But if he plays his cards right — similar to what he did back in 2006 with Florida — just one of those players could be forced to look on from the sidelines.
Meyer dismissed the idea of playing two quarterbacks at once during his Tuesday press conference, but said he could employ a “specialty quarterback,” and compared that situation to his ‘06 Gators.
That Florida team featured a senior quarterback in Chris Leak who already had three years of starting experience under his belt. Even though he threw 49 touchdowns between his sophomore and junior seasons, the arrival of freshman Tim Tebow meant Leak had to rotate to some extent.
The combination worked to near perfection as Leak acted as the passing quarterback and threw for 2,942 yards and 23 touchdowns. Tebow had his chances to throw the ball as well, finishing his freshman campaign with five touchdown passes and just one interception.
But the “specialty” portion of “specialty quarterback” came when Tebow tucked the ball and ran. He ended up being the Gators’ second leading rusher with 469 yards on the ground and he led the team with eight rushing touchdowns.
To prove Meyer’s success with his dual-quarterback system, the Gators finished the year 13-1 overall, including their hammering of OSU in the title game.
In order for that system to work, Meyer said it took two players who worked well together.
“There was a very egoless approach to the game,” Meyer said. “One quarterback drives it down and the other one comes in as a goal-line quarterback, but it worked.”
The Buckeyes have varying skill sets in Barrett, Jones and Miller, but all three are also at least semi-proven full-time starters.
Miller is known best for his running ability, but has also thrown 52 touchdowns in his career. Barrett is known as more of an accurate passer and game reader, but he ran for 938 yards and 11 scores last year, including an OSU quarterback-record 86-yard touchdown run against Minnesota. Jones is known to have a rocket arm, but he completed just over 60 percent of his passes in limited playing time as well.
Considering his past success with a multi-quarterback system, Meyer said he’s considered that option again. But Miller and Barrett are both going through rehab this spring, and the fourth-year OSU coach stressed that Jones is still very raw.
“I’ve thought about that a little bit, but it’s one day at a time,” Meyer said. “It’s get Braxton healthy, get J.T. as many reps as he can and Cardale’s … he’s played three games.”
With Jones the only quarterback of the three at full health, the Buckeyes are scheduled to take the Ohio Stadium field on April 18 for their annual Spring Game. OSU’s 2015 regular season is set to kick off against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va.