So after 15 spring practices, where do those three stand in the three-headed battle to be under center for the Buckeyes on Sept. 7? While the stated goals appear to be accomplished, the three quarterbacks are virtually in the same spot, according to Meyer.
Barrett has been able to get more reps this spring than Meyer anticipated following surgery on his ankle in November but is not yet full strength while Miller continues to rehab his reconstructed throwing shoulder.
As for Jones, he took nearly all of the first-team reps throughout the spring, culminating with 304 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the spring game April 18.
“That wasn't a Cardale day,” Meyer said after Jones’ Scarlet team got a 17-14 win. “He played behind a makeshift offensive line. I can give you a bunch of excuses, but he's got to be much sharper than that.
“For the spring, I'd give him a very good spring, though.”
Jones was more pleased with his performance, though he acknowledged that he has work left to do. All three quarterbacks do.
Jones seems to have a leg up on his fellow quarterbacks given the reps he was able to take this spring, but the race to start the season-opener against Virginia Tech is far from over. Meyer said identifying specific areas of improvement for each QB is the domain of quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, but Meyer is working on a way to track the competition going forward.
“I'll come up with some kind of system throughout training camp that we're going to chart everything that everyone does,” Meyer said. “And we've kind of done it, but not to the degree that we're going to do it this year. This can't be, well, I'm going with him because it's my gut feeling. Those gut feelings it's got to be statistical analysis and data, backed up on who is going to play quarterback.”
The system is not only to give Meyer and his staff hard facts about each player, but to give the three quarterbacks and their family’s information not just about where they stand on the depth chart, but why.
Meyer has said that the hardest part about the quarterback battle is not picking a guy, but rather having to tell two they are going to sit. For all the rehab of Miller and Barrett and all the reps of Jones, that hasn’t changed throughout the spring.
To their credit, the three quarterbacks seem to be taking the competition in stride. Barrett and Jones competed with former Ohio State Heisman winner Troy Smith in a halftime quarterback competition, a way of showing fans that the quarterbacks are embracing the state of the position at Ohio State. The fact that Barrett won the accuracy competition, Jones the deep-ball contest and Miller, unable to throw in the competition, was narrowly beat by speedy running back Ezekiel Elliott in the 40-yard dash further highlighted the skills that the three bring to the table.
While the Buckeyes did not emerge from spring ball with an answer to their quarterback conundrum, there was progress made.
For Barrett, the goal is to get healthy. He’s well on his way.
“Our trainers did a good job, we were very cautious with him,” Meyer said. “We actually got J.T. Barrett in a couple of two-minute situations because our guys know how to practice. You can’t have a bad situation because if you reinjure it he’s done for the year.”
Miller entered spring with the same stated goal, though his rehabilitation is more exhaustive as the injury is in his throwing shoulder.
“I’ve been told rehab is going good,” Meyer said of Miller. “The only person I really trust is, the player knows. I’ve known Braxton for a long time and almost every day, ‘How’s it going? Talk to me.’ And he’s said it’s going very well. The trainers of course, they’re not going to say (it’s awful). So I ask the player and he’s mature enough and our relationship is enough that it’s going great.”
For Jones it was simply to get reps. The quarterback who led the Buckeyes to the 2014 National Championship entered the spring still relatively green when it came to game action and taking every meaningful snap of spring ball could not have done anything but help.
“For me to be able to have all the warm reps with the guys who I think are going to be able to make plays for us in the fall, I mean, it was pretty fun,” Jones said. “And I hope I can carry it over to the fall.”
The Buckeyes may not have come out of spring practice any closer to naming a starting quarterback than they were when they entered it, but the rehab calendars of Barrett and Miller made that a near certainty months ago. Ohio State did enter its 15 practices with clear goals for each of the three quarterbacks and in that regard it seems to be mission accomplished.