While many college football programs will spend the spring trying to decide on a new starting quarterback, the Ohio State Buckeyes are in a much more enviable situation as they aim to decide on who will be the backup behind star signal-caller Braxton Miller.
Miller elected to delay his professional career for another year and come back for his senior season in Columbus, leaving OSU with the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year at the helm.
The question now remains: Will redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett or true freshman Stephen Collier back up the Buckeye legend?
Per OSU, "Braxton Miller isn't likely to take a snap this spring." That leaves a lot of first-team reps for JT Barrett and Cardale Jones.— Dave Biddle (@davebiddle) March 3, 2014
Kenny Guiton was arguably the best backup quarterback in the country last year, as he filled in admirably when Miller was injured early in the 2013 season. Guiton finished the year with 1,079 total yards and 19 total touchdowns with just two interceptions. However, he has graduated, opening the door for a new No. 2.
In a strange twist, Miller will be limited in the spring after having minor outpatient surgery on his throwing shoulder in February.
While injuries are never a positive, his is oddly convenient and will allow for his two backups to split more time during spring practice, giving them more time to impress Urban Meyer and his staff.
Come along as we break down OSU's two contenders for the No. 2 slot on the depth chart.
Tale of the Tape
|Player||Height||Weight||Recruit Class||Rating||DT QB Rank||Overall Rank|
OhioStateBuckeyes.com, 247Sports Composite Rankings
Meet Cardale Jones
If the name "Cardale Jones" sounds familiar, you aren't crazy. You probably know Jones as the "we ain't come to play school" guy.
In 2012, Jones infamously tweeted (then deleted): "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS."
While Jones doesn't have the best reputation, offensive coordinator Tom Herman was quick to report that one tweet doesn't tell his entire story, per Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer:
Cardale needs to show consistency. He’s got a ton of physical talent and he’s a lot smarter than you think. He’s kind of class clown. I think he has grown up a lot and continues to grow up. And all the things we’ve seen in the off-season and off the field need to start to translate onto the field and his maturity coming through and I think that will show in his consistency of play. He’s a good player, he just needs to mature. He’s a lot smarter and a lot more decisive than some people think.
Jones came out of the class of 2011 along with Miller but spent a postgraduate year at Fork Union Military Academy before arriving in Columbus as a 3-star recruit in the 247Sports Composite ratings.
He logged action in three games last season, finishing 1-of-2 passing for a whopping three yards. He is a strong rusher, though. He ran 17 times for 128 yards and a touchdown last year.
Cardale Jones has to be intriguing though for Meyer because he's 6-5 with speed and mobility. Strong arm, but not very accurate.— Brandon Castel (@BCastOZone) March 3, 2014
Herman told Lesmerises that Jones will enter the spring as the No. 2 behind Miller, but depending on how he handles his time—and how Barrett and Collier handle their time—anything is subject to change.
Meet J.T. Barrett
While Jones is a big, powerful runner, Barrett is much more comparable to Miller.
He was a 247Sports Composite 4-star and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class out of Wichita Falls, Texas.
He'll essentially be starting with a blank slate. He redshirted the 2013 season after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL he suffered while in high school. However, he wasn't just sitting around doing nothing all year. Barrett worked hard to carve himself into a physical condition that will prepare him for this spring's battle, as Herman told Lesmerises:
J.T. has a ton of intangibles and has reworked his body since he got here. He came in kind of pudgy. He has basically spent an entire year reworking his body and has shown a lot of leadership on the scout team this year.
You want to talk about intangibles and just being able to feel when guys kind of have that it factor, he’s got that. He has a quick release, he’s pretty accurate, and those things are what drew us toward him. Now he’s done laying in the weeds, now he has to get out of the weeds and attack this thing.
Those intangibles could very well put Barrett closer to Miller, who is a skilled playmaker in his own right, in the eyes of the OSU coaching staff.
Really enjoyed talking to J.T. Barrett in the Ohio State locker room. Smart, thoughtful kid. Just seems to have "it"— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) January 4, 2014
While skills on paper are great, don't be surprised if Barrett lets his innate ability to play the game show during spring practice.
Meet Stephen Collier
The clear No. 3 in the race for OSU's backup job is early enrollee Stephen Collier.
Collier seems destined to redshirt this season after joining the squad as a 247Sports Composite 3-star in the 2014 class.
'He's a developmental guy': Urban Meyer knows what he's getting in Stephen Collier, but that's a good fit for Ohio... http://t.co/9eEx8FxQjF— cleveland.com Sports (@cdotcomSports) February 18, 2014
Urban Meyer said in February, per Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com, that Collier will need to develop into the position.
Who will be QB2 on the Ohio State depth chart at the end of spring practice?
Having said that, garnering reps this spring will be very valuable for the true freshman from Leesburg, Ga.
Prediction: Barrett Wins No. 2 Job
Jones will enter the spring as the leader of the race. With his size and relative experience, he will have an understandable advantage.
However, he'll face a great challenge from Barrett, who looks to be OSU's quarterback of the future.
As the spring goes along, Barrett will move further into favor with the Buckeyes coaching staff.
By the time the April 12 spring game rolls around, Barrett will have supplanted Jones for the backup role behind Miller.