The Quarterback Dilemma


Much has been made of Ohio State’s quarterback situation, which began as a three-way race but is down to two with Braxton Miller’s move to wide receiver. Both Cardale Jones and JT Barrett recently came out against a platoon quarterback system.
Two things are interesting about this discussion taking place. First, the topic of a two-quarterback situation at Ohio State under Urban Meyer has come up previously. Now, the Miller-Guiton quarterback situation of 2013 was quite different from this year’s ordeal. First and foremost, Braxton Miller was unequivocally the number one guy. He suffered a knee injury in the opening drive of the Buckeye’s second game of the season against San Diego State and missed the next two games. He returned to open conference play against Wisconsin in the fifth game for Ohio State and went on to have an outstanding season, finishing 9th in Heisman voting despite playing in basically only 10 games.

Perhaps a more interesting parallel to Ohio State’s current platoon quarterback situation is the Urban Meyer-coached 2006 Florida Gators. That year, Florida had a two-headed attack at quarterback, featuring Chris Leak and a dynamic freshman in Tim Tebow. The Gators finished the regular season 12-1, winning the SEC and earning a spot in the BCS National Championship game. Coming into the National Championship game, Leak had 2,729 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and Tebow had 357 passing yards with 4 touchdowns plus 430 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground.

The Gators’ opponent in that National Championship was, interestingly enough, Ohio State. The Buckeyes, led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith, were 12-0 coming into the game. Smith dominated Heisman voting, earning nearly three times the votes of that year’s runner up, Darren McFadden.

Smith’s season numbers were impressive: 2,507 passing yards with 30 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions plus 214 yards rushing. It is interesting to take a look at Troy Smith’s stats compared to the combined Chris Leak-Tim Tebow stats at the time of Heisman voting:

Pass Yards Pass TDs INTs Passer Rating Rush Yds Rush TDs Record
Smith 2,507 30 5 167.87 214 1 12-0
Leak/Tebow 3,086 26 14 150.98 380 10 12-1

According to the Heisman HYPE model (which has been used to look at hypothetical Heisman outcomes previously), a Leak/Tebow hybrid QB would have beatenĀ out Troy Smith for the 2006 Heisman by over 500 votes. (Sidenote: It would be interesting if the Heisman could be given to a pair of players at a single position. Messy, perhaps, but intersting). Of course, Meyer and the Gators won that National Championship game handily 41-14 while Tebow, as the lone Gators QB, went on to win the Heisman Trophy the following year.

While I can understand why both guys would be opposed to splitting time under center, as Cardale Jones stated, I’m “pretty sure coach Meyer could make it work,” he’s done it before.


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