Senior, Heisman hopeful, future first-round draft pick.
That’s Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.
And he is not a team captain.
Instead, the Spartans elected fifth-year seniors Shilique Calhoun, Darien Harris and Jack Allen. While those players are probably deserving of being captains, what does it say about your team that your senior quarterback isn’t one of them?
“That’s alarming to me,” former Heisman winner Eddie George said in-studio on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They’re voted by the players. Not coaches. Players. So if your peers don’t look at you as a captain and you’re the quarterback, came back, sacrificed – what does that say? I’m a little concerned about that. Typically your hotshot quarterback will be a captain. Ohio State, same thing. J.T. Barrett, captain.”
As George explained, being a captain might be a formality in other sports, but not in football. Yes, in football, it’s about more than the coin toss and pre-game handshake.
“It’s about the title of being captain,” said George, a former captain. “Everyone, they look to you to probably call a team meeting or lead them in a speech – something. You’re the alpha male. They loo at you as their leader, so it means something in football.”
That Barrett was named one of Ohio State’s captains should come as no surprise. He has not yet been named the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, but he – according to everyone from Urban Meyer to Kirk Herbstreit – is a phenomenal leader. It’s not that Cardale Jones isn’t a good leader.
It’s just that Barrett is superb.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to both of them over the last two years, and J.T. has that aura about him – like, ‘Wow, I would vote you captain,’” George said. “He’s very cool and calm under pressure. You watch him play the game and nothing really fazes him. But off the field, his demeanor is very steady, whereas Cardale – you’re going to get a high, energetic guy who talks trash and runs safeties and linemen over. That’s a different way to lead, but there’s something about J.T.’s leadership that’s unparalleled. So I get it. When you talk to these kids, it’s totally different.”
So are their styles. Barrett doesn’t have Jones’ arm, but he knows the offense inside and out, he can run the option better, and he can take it the distance on every play. Jones, meanwhile, can make any throw, is an imposing pocket presence and can run over pretty much everyone.
Barrett’s main advantage? Intangibles.
“I think J.T. edges him in that regard because we’ve seen his body of work over a course of a season. We haven’t seen Cardale’s body of work yet – only over three games,” George said. “And sometimes what happens is if you’re not familiar with a player, you can build momentum throughout the course of a year until you can figure out what are his weaknesses, how can we attack him and so forth, (whereas) J.T. already has that experience. That’s where I kind of give the edge to J.T. because he has led them 12 or 13 games more than Cardale.”