The most anticipated quarterback competition in college football history is still ongoing at defending national champion Ohio State. Did we learn anything during the Buckeyes' recently completed spring practices and game?
Competition Hasn't Truly Started Yet
The short answer to the question asked above is a resounding no. We all know the combatants by now. There's former two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller. He was a top Heisman candidate last summer but hurt his shoulder in August and missed the entire season. Because Miller has graduated, the senior could transfer to another school -- one that offers a graduate program that OSU doesn't -- and play immediately next season.
There's redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett. He beat out Cardale Jones for Miller's starting spot during last summer's camp. All Barrett did was go 11-1 as Ohio State's starter before suffering a broken ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan. Barrett finished with school-record totals of 3,772 total yards and 45 touchdowns responsible for. His touchdowns total was a Big Ten record. He passed for 2,834 yards and a school-record 34 touchdowns and rushed for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the year and was the conference's Freshman of the Week a conference-record seven times. Barrett was fifth in the Heisman voting.
Jones replaced the injured Barrett and led the Buckeyes to upset wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, over No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals (Sugar Bowl) and then over No. 2 Oregon in the national championship game. He has two things that Miller and Barrett don't: prototypical NFL size at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and an NFL ready arm (Jones threw it 74 yards in the air during a skills competition at halftime of OSU's spring game). Barrett and Miller are more elusive as runners. Jones could have turned pro and perhaps been as high as a second-round pick despite such a limited resume, but he opted to return for his redshirt junior season.
Jones Got All Spring Work
Jones had the advantage of taking nearly all the snaps during spring camp and the Scarlet and Gray spring game. In that, he completed 19 of 42 passes for 304 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. According to Cleveland.com, Jones threw mostly deep balls but only connected on three of them and all to Corey Smith. Neither Miller nor Barrett played as they are still rehabbing. So that might seem a huge advantage for Jones, but remember that he still has nowhere near the game experience that either of those guys has.
The OSU coaching staff essentially said nothing after the spring workouts, with Urban Meyer previously saying the decision will be made in fall camp on a starter. Meyer added he expects to make a call by the middle of training camp, so mid-August.
“I'll come up with some kind of system throughout training camp that we're going to chart everything that everyone does,” he said. “And we've kind of done it, but not to the degree that we're going to do it this year. Because you have to be right on now. This can't be, ‘Well, I'm going with him because it's my gut feeling.’ It's got to be statistical analysis and data."
Meyer has said that he's not going to use two quarterbacks like he did in 2006 at Florida with freshman Tim Tebow and senior Chris Leak, with the Gators winning the first of their two national titles under Meyer.
I still believe Miller will transfer, although Oregon is now out with the Ducks landing FCS All-American Vernon Adams. ESPN's Paul Finebaum, who knows the SEC better than anyone, reported on Tuesday that per his Alabama source there is “a chance” Miller transfers to the Tide. Bama has an opening with Blake Sims having graduated. Obviously the one problem with any school offering Miller an opening is that he won't likely resume full throwing until June or July. It's the second time he has torn his labrum, also doing so during the Orange Bowl after the 2013 season.
If you go by Bovada's Heisman odds, Jones should win the job because he's 9/1 to win the Heisman, with Miller and Barnett both at 20/1. The favorite is another Buckeye: Running back Ezekiel Elliott at 6/1. I believe Jones is that Game 1 starter at Virginia Tech with Barrett his backup and Miller either at another school or another position.
OSU is +350 on College football odds to repeat as national champion.
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