- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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Breaking down the Ohio State roster as offseason conditioning wraps up, training camp draws closer and the program turns its attention to the opener on Aug. 31 against Buffalo.
Next in line: Cardale Jones is waiting in the wings if the Buckeyes need a third option behind center, and after sitting out last season, the coaching staff took a long look at the redshirt freshman during spring camp. Jones showed good mobility and the 241-pounder is a handful to tackle when he gets moving, though he could still use some time to develop as a passer.
New face: J.T. Barrett didn’t have a chance to show off much physically as he continued to recover from a knee injury suffered during his senior season in high school, but he still made a splash as an early enrollee with his knowledge of the game and a desire to improve off the field. A one-on-one battle with Jones during training camp shouldn’t impact the Buckeyes much this fall -- but it might have lasting implications down the road if Barrett continues to impress.
Recruiting trail: Guiton will be out of eligibility after this season, and replacing a veteran backup who has made it look routine to seamlessly take over the offense won’t be easy to replace. But his spot on the roster at least is currently spoken for by commit Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County). At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Collier turned heads during camps this summer with his ability to deliver the football and the hype around the current three-star passer is building.
Flexibility: This is Miller’s show, and there’s absolutely no uncertainty about that. But if something goes awry physically, the Buckeyes have confidence that Guiton can steer the ship, even if he doesn’t have the tools as a rusher that Miller brings to the table.
After getting tossed into the fire as a true freshman and completing 54.1 percent of his passes, a slightly more experienced Miller bumped that number up to 58.3 during the perfect season a year ago. A similar improvement would get him over the 60-percent mark and could send the offense into a much higher gear.
Whether it was coming in cold during the middle of a drive or needing to lead one in its entirety, Guiton was remarkably efficient for a backup when called on to replace Miller. Of the 15 drives he contributed to as a junior, 8 of them finished in the end zone.
Jones didn’t make all that much of an impression as a passer during an uneven spring game, completing 7 of his 16 passes for 65 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But he flashed the speed and hard running that could eventually help him break into the offense with 8 carries for 37 yards.
Big question: How big will Miller’s leap be as a passer?
Ohio State truly doesn’t know where the ceiling is for Miller and his off-the-charts athleticism, but it is quite certain he isn’t close to reaching it yet. For his part, the maturing junior has taken it upon himself to start unlocking more of that potential, working with a quarterback guru on his footwork shortly after the season ended last year and absorbing every bit of information he can from coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman to take the next step as a field general in total command of the system. The combination of better mechanics and a deeper understanding of offensive concepts should produce a more efficient passer for the Buckeyes -- but it remains to be seen just how high of a level he hits this fall.
5hBrian Bennett and Austin Ward