Braxton Miller is still recovering from minor shoulder surgery, which prevented him from strapping on his pads and suiting up for Ohio State's spring game Saturday afternoon.
His absence proved just how important he is to the Buckeyes' 2014 season and potential title run.
Without Miller, Ohio State's scrimmage featured the top two candidates for the backup spot—redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.
While Jones has received a lot of praise this spring, he struggled Saturday, completing just 14-of-31 passes for 126 yards. Barrett was a bit better, connecting on 17-of-33 passes for 151 yards.
Neither quarterback threw a touchdown or completed a pass longer than 35 yards.
Those are disappointing numbers for both signal-callers, who were operating pass-heavy offenses against defenses that didn't blitz. Urban Meyer was hoping to see more from Jones, who has surged ahead of Barrett for the No. 2 quarterback spot.
Finding a safety net for Miller was one of Ohio State's top priorities this offseason.
When Miller sprained his knee against San Diego State early last season, Ohio State turned to backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who kept the Buckeyes playing at a very high level for three consecutive weeks.
That was 11 months after Guiton saved Ohio State's perfect 2012 season against Purdue. The Buckeyes were in a world of hurt when Miller got knocked out of the game, but Guiton orchestrated one of the most improbable comebacks of the season when he forced overtime with a touchdown pass and two-point conversion in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
Saturday showed that Jones and Barrett aren't the reliable option Guiton was.
That puts even more pressure on Miller to stay healthy. The senior signal-caller has had an injury-plagued career at Ohio State, and if he goes down this season, Guiton won't be around to save the day.
Miller has spent his spring standing behind the line of scrimmage with a camera strapped to his head, forced to take mental reps during every offensive snap. Meyer wants Miller taking the next step as a quarterback, which would require major improvement as a passer.
According to Ben Axelrod of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, Miller is right on track.
“He really gets it now. He really wants to be great.” - Urban Meyer on Braxton Miller.— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) April 12, 2014
Forced to play without him Saturday, the Buckeyes saw just how much they need Miller to be great.
All stats via Ohio State's official website.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.