OSU offseason questions: Quarterbacks

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
10:00
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Almost as soon as it arrived, spring camp at Ohio State wrapped up. Time isn't likely to fly by quite as quickly in the offseason with the summer months sure to drag by until the 2014 campaign finally opens in August. The Buckeyes have plenty of work to do to get ready for their debut against Navy on Aug. 30, and to help pass the time, we're looking at some of the most pressing positional questions they'll have to answer to make another run at a championship.

How much faith do the Buckeyes have in the backup QB plan?

[+] EnlargeCardale Jones
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteCardale Jones is likely to enter the fall as the backup quarterback for Ohio State.
From the moment Braxton Miller headed to shoulder surgery through the end of camp, Ohio State had little reason to wring its hands and worry about what he might be missing during 15 spring workouts. If anything, the coaching staff immediately seemed to recognize the potential blessing of having its three-year starter and two-time Big Ten player of the year doing nothing but mental work in March and April.

For starters, Miller's physical ability is plenty well established by now, and Ohio State's innovative approach to keeping him involved on the field with a video camera on his head and a microphone near his mouth kept him involved and invested in the learning process. And, perhaps more importantly, it gave the Buckeyes a chance to dive into the evaluation process and figure out just how reliable the safety net is under Miller in case he's forced to miss any more time for injury in the fall.

Kenny Guiton proved himself to be the perfect reliever for the Buckeyes over the last two seasons, always ready to come off the bench at a moment's notice and use his exhaustive knowledge of the playbook to keep the spread offense humming along without missing much of a beat despite not having quite as many tools at his disposal as the incomparable Miller.

But Guiton is gone now, and even after winning the backup job coming out of the spring game, Cardale Jones has big shoes to fill in the No. 2 spot well before he can even think about taking over after Miller's eligibility is up at the end of the season.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer praised the work the physically imposing Jones did during camp, but he danced around the question of how much of a potential drop off there would be if Miller was knocked out of the lineup and the offense was suddenly in the hands of his largely unproven understudy. Jones has a rocket of an arm, but aiming it in the proper spot consistently still seems to be a bit of an issue for the redshirt sophomore.

With unnatural speed for a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, Jones would still be a threat on the ground in the option or zone-read game, though he's certainly not as explosive as Miller. And by his own admission, Jones has not had the most businesslike approach to his craft since arriving on campus, an area where he would clearly need to make strides to meet the standard Guiton set as the model backup.

But Jones still has plenty of time to go to work before fall camp opens, and when the Buckeyes do report for practice again, they'll have their starter back behind center and again taking the reps with the first-team offense. After a spring without Miller, both Ohio State and Jones now should have a better grasp on what needs to be done to be ready if a similar absence pops up in the fall.

And that doesn't mean closing the gap between Jones and Miller as much as making sure Jones is at least close to Guiton's level.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter

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