Ohio State Buckeyes: J.T. Barrett
H-B Curtis Samuel
- An early enrollee, Samuel showed off his straight-line speed with one of the longest touchdowns of the open scrimmage on Student Appreciation Day, taking a handoff up the middle on a fourth-and-short situation and never looking back on the way to the end zone. Samuel's athleticism drew rave reviews even before he hit the practice field, and after being initially slowed by a hamstring injury last month, he put it on full display by bursting through the hole and pulling away from defenders in front of several thousand fans. Even more people will be watching at the Horseshoe, and Samuel will no doubt have a few chances to show what he could bring to the Ohio State offense as a first-year contributor at the hybrid position along with Dontre Wilson.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Gregory PayanCurtis Samuel showed his potential in a run in a scrimmage last week.
- The redshirt freshman started his career on the wrong foot off the field, but if Baugh can avoid any more of those missteps, he clearly has the talent to make things happen on the turf for the Buckeyes. Ohio State already has two talented players ahead of him at one of its deepest positions, but with Jeff Heuerman currently on the shelf following foot surgery, Baugh has benefited from the additional reps and is building a case to be included in the game plan in some fashion along with Nick Vannett. Even before Heuerman was injured, Baugh was turning heads by teaming with reserve quarterback J.T. Barrett for some long gains through the air, and more passes figure to be coming his way in the spring showcase.
- The fifth-year senior has had to patiently wait his turn, but his time appears to have finally arrived this spring as he prepares for his final season with the program and a likely role in the starting lineup. Offensive line coach Ed Warinner has had a magic touch at right tackle during his two seasons with Ohio State, turning former tight end Reid Fragel into a professional prospect with just one year to work with him and then bringing Taylor Decker quickly up to speed last season in his first year as a starter. With Decker switching over to the left side, Baldwin has earned praise for his work with the starters and will have one more chance in live action to solidify that role as his own heading into the offseason.
But to Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, that might actually be a sign of progress.
With the top quarterback on the shelf and their veteran, reliable backup no longer with the program, the Buckeyes have had plenty of time and attention to devote to the battle to replace Kenny Guiton behind entrenched starter Braxton Miller. And with Cardale Jones in the same spot with the first-string offense after six practices that he occupied when spring camp opened, the lack of news Herman has had to report is actually good news for Ohio State.
“He’s playing like a quarterback at Ohio State should.”
There’s still no question who the starting quarterback at Ohio State will be in the fall, but Miller’s shoulder surgery and subsequent rehabilitation during March and April has come with a silver lining as the coaching staff evaluates candidates for the crucial relief role Guiton filled so admirably over the last two seasons.
For all his considerable talent and eye-popping production, Miller has been forced to the sideline in a handful of games with minor health issues during his career and also missed three weeks due to a knee injury last fall, with Guiton seamlessly taking the reins every time he was needed. But regardless of how much Jones or J.T. Barrett might be called upon in the fall, the Buckeyes are taking full advantage of the extra work both are getting now to try to get them ready for more than a backup role down the road with Miller heading into his final season.
“I tell those two guys a lot of the time, just be you,” Herman said. “Their strengths are so different. I tell J.T., you get paid a scholarship to make great decisions, to get the ball out of your hands and be accurate. You’re not going to grow, your arm, this year, is not going to get a whole lot stronger. ... So be on time, be accurate and be right with what you do with the football.
“Cardale, your strengths are different as well. Cardale is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds and can throw it through that wall. Use some of that, use the talents that you have and then while we develop the portions of your game that need to be developed, we’ll do that.”
For Jones, that process appears largely focused on the redshirt sophomore's accuracy, particularly after scattering throws off target during parts of a scrimmage on Saturday.
But his combination of speed and size makes him an intriguing option as a rusher at quarterback, though certainly in a different way than the elusive, electric Miller. And there’s no question about his arm strength, which has previously been on display during open practices and has produced a handful of explosive plays down the field thanks to his ability to deliver the deep ball.
So, after throwing out maybe one rocky performance among six thus far, those positives outweigh any negatives and leave Jones in the same solid position to contribute to the Buckeyes that he was in when camp opened.
“That was just a ‘this is my first scrimmage on a winner-loser day as the quarterback with the first offense at the Ohio State University and I’m nervous as hell’ thing,” Herman said. “What he showed me on Saturday was not indicative of the previous four practices or [Tuesday’s] practice. So we’ve got to make sure they don’t get so worked up on a Saturday scrimmage because it’s winner-loser day and all their fundamentals and technique and knowledge go out the window.
“Cardale has done a great job. He has done nothing to deserve less reps with the ones right now.”
A healthy Miller would change that equation, of course. But for now, Herman has nothing new to report and seemingly no reason to complain.
- Bill O'Brien called Penn State's bowl ban "ridiculous." The Nittany Lions picked up a commitment from a receiver.
- The pieces are in place for Jake Rudock and Iowa to be successful.
- Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett are trying to get a leg up on the Ohio State quarterback job with Braxton Miller out this spring. Why the Buckeyes offense needs to be different this year. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith got a bonus when a Buckeyes wrestler won a national title, and that tells you everything you need to know about college sports, Dan Wetzel writes.
- Michigan State defensive end Marcus Rush is all business as spring opens.
- Michigan's offensive linemen are spurred on by last year's problems.
- New Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Brown doesn't plan on fumbling his opportunity.
- Observations from Rutgers' first spring practice.
- Dolapo McCarthy is adjusting to another position change at Purdue, this time to tight end.
- Nebraska's Charles Jackson is motivated to earn his Blackshirt.
- Minnesota is being cautious with tight end Maxx Williams, who's nursing a left knee injury.
- Illinois is looking to double its donor base.
- Indiana's Isaac Griffith is expected to return to the team this fall.
No. 5: Quarterbacks under the microscope
And while Miller’s ongoing education figures to have the most significant impact for Ohio State’s title chances, the last two seasons have provided plenty of evidence that having a steady backup is just as critical -- and monitoring that job is just as labor-intensive for quarterbacks coach Tom Herman.
Fortunately for Herman, Miller’s injury provided something of a blessing in disguise by freeing up reps for Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett to audition for the No. 2 spot, and after the first week there doesn’t appear to be any change in the pecking order. Jones has been around the program longer, and that experience and his impressive natural skills have given him the edge over Barrett, whose intelligence and accuracy are big assets.
There’s still plenty of time for something to change, and Jones and Barrett will have no shortage of opportunities to build their case for the role Kenny Guiton filled so admirably over the past two seasons. But at this point, Jones is making the most of his chances to lead the first-team offense when Miller is not around, which could be invaluable if that situation pops up again when it matters.
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But the pressure isn't the same for all the Buckeyes since a healthy handful have their names etched at the top of the depth chart and won't be sweating a competition for a starting job -- obviously beginning with a quarterback who has finished in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy voting two years running. But who will back up Braxton Miller is just one of the most intriguing positional battles that will be waged in March and April, and that's where this week's countdown begins as we look at the candidates for some critical gigs for a team with its sights set on winning it all come fall.
- Predecessor: Kenny Guiton (75 for 109, 749 yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions; 40 carries for 330 yards and five TDs)
- Candidates: Redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett
- Why to watch: Given the amount of hits Miller takes and the number of times he's been forced out of games even briefly due to injury, there's no question that having a security blanket behind him is crucial for the Buckeyes. Nobody made Meyer feel cozier than Guiton over the last two seasons, and he became something of a legend for his uncanny ability to keep the offense rolling along when Miller was forced out of the lineup. Ohio State is unlikely to get the same level of maturity and leadership the fifth-year senior provided from two guys with such limited experience, but it will need to quickly identify whether it's Jones or Barrett who has the best chance to duplicate Guiton's on-field success off the bench.
- Pre-camp edge: The Buckeyes made a point of getting Jones some significant reps during spring ball a year ago, and he was then given a couple opportunities to show what he could do in a live setting by appearing in three games last season. There's not much to be learned about his ability throwing the football with just two passes on his resume, but Jones showed how dangerous he can be running it with 17 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. Even that small amount of experience and the time he's had to absorb the playbook should give him a head start in March, but Barrett certainly can't be ruled out after arriving on campus and instantly impressing the coaching staff with his grasp of the system and devotion to learning his craft.
Even better for the Buckeyes, they're apparently keeping the one who really matters to their title hopes in 2014.
Ryan Shazier is a fantastic defender, and given the woes on that side of the ball at the end of the season, Urban Meyer certainly can use as many of those as possible as he rebuilds and reloads that unit. Losing him to the NFL draft, as SI.com reported citing a source, is a significant blow. But the Ohio State coach has been stockpiling talent to turn loose defensively next season -- and replacing Braxton Miller was always going to be the taller order.
The record-setting spread offense will have its engine back with yet another year to absorb the system, become a better student of the game and again improve his mechanics. For all Miller's struggles at the end of the year throwing the football, whether he was banged up, slowed by bad weather or whatever else, he again proved in the Discover Orange Bowl how invaluable his singular skills are to the Buckeyes as he nearly dragged them to a win by himself with four total touchdowns.
Of course, the bid for a late comeback ultimately came up short when Miller misread a coverage and fired an easy interception directly to a Clemson defender, adding one more bit of evidence that he's not quite ready to be a professional passer. There was plenty of proof to go around during the final month of the regular season and another sloppy outing in the Big Ten title game. But even with Miller not quite reaching his potential, there's probably nobody in the country whom Meyer would trade for to run his offense.
Miller is the two-time defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He has twice finished in the top 10 in voting for the Heisman Trophy. And while his arm might get criticized at times and NFL scouts night not have considered him ready to move on, Miller is plenty good enough at the level he's at now to take the Buckeyes back into national-title contention during his senior season.
Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett could wind up being productive quarterbacks down the road, and they might have been capable of leading an attack with veteran skill players such as Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman returning along with promising dynamic threats such as Dontre Wilson and redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall without missing a beat. But they almost certainly don't have Miller's multipurpose athleticism. They haven't been through nearly as many battles leading the offense, and the Buckeyes would certainly have their hands full trying to bring the young quarterbacks along behind an offensive line with four new starters.
Shazier would have been icing on the cake if he returned. But Miller is the main course, and the Buckeyes now have enough to feed on to get back in position to play for it all next season.
The one with all the uncertainty surrounding him declared himself ready for the next level and seemed to tilt toward the exit.
But with Ryan Shazier perhaps too hot of a commodity to return for another year in college and Braxton Miller at least giving the impression that he’s willing to bet on himself, that combination could be a problem for No. 7 Ohio State. It might leave them without both stars after Friday night’s Discover Orange Bowl and some mighty big shoes to fill when the Buckeyes start turning their attention to the 2014 season and what could be another run at a national title.
As both the deadline to declare for the draft and the Discover Orange Bowl both creep up, it’s time to peek into the crystal ball.
After yet another incredibly productive campaign stuffing the stats sheet in every conceivable way, there’s really not much Shazier has left to prove as a college linebacker. He can make tackles anywhere on the field, he’s shown an uncanny ability to time the snap as a blitzer and use his athleticism to make plays in the backfield and he’s consistently delivered timely plays when the Buckeyes have needed them most.
But even with all that on his resume, Shazier publicly called himself “dead-flat in the middle” between staying or going before giving a slight edge to the former during bowl practices.
- If he stays: The Buckeyes have been building toward the 2014 season with strong recruiting at every level of the defense, though linebacker still remains the position with the lowest margin for error based on the depth on hand. Having Shazier stick around would keep the entire starting front seven intact heading into next year, which could make it even more difficult to run the ball against Ohio State and take some pressure off what figures to be a young secondary.
- If he goes: There will still be plenty of talent and experience on the Ohio State defense, but it will need some fresh faces to develop quickly and fill the void on the outside. Trey Johnson was a prized commodity in the signing class a year ago, and he might need to be ready to live up to his potential next fall.
- Shazier’s ESPN.com position rank: No. 4 outside linebacker
- Prediction: Enters the NFL draft
There’s hardly any room to criticize Miller at the competitive level he’s playing at now, and few players have ever accumulated hardware at the rate he’s been on over the last two seasons at quarterback. He’s obviously won a few games, too.
But projecting Miller at the next level gets a bit trickier, because his passing numbers dipped down the stretch and professional general managers will undoubtedly be picking apart his arm and accuracy when they decide where to draft him to lead an NFL offense.
When pressed about his future, Miller said he was “definitely” ready to play at the next level in terms of his physical ability, but he was still waiting for some feedback from the draft evaluators before making a decision that is expected within about a week after the bowl game.
- If he stays: The Buckeyes have four starters to replace on the offensive line and Carlos Hyde won’t be in the backfield to help share the load, but Miller’s presence alone in Urban Meyer’s spread offense should ensure a lot of points on the board yet again. Ohio State has recruited well at the skill positions and has veteran targets like wide receiver Devin Smith and tight end Jeff Heuerman returning, so Miller certainly wouldn’t have to do it all himself to keep things humming along for what would again figure to be a dynamic attack.
- If he goes: Eventually Miller is going to have to be replaced, but the Buckeyes would clearly prefer to put that off for another year. Invaluable backup Kenny Guiton will be gone after this season, putting rising sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett in line for the marquee role for a potential title contender. Jones is big, strong and mobile and would likely have the edge heading to spring practice, but Barrett has been widely praised for his football intelligence since arriving on campus and could make a strong push for the job.
- Miller’s ESPN.com position rank: No. 13 quarterback
- Prediction: Returns for senior season
Matt from Tucson, Ariz., writes: I'll send my question to you since you chose Nebraska as your most improved bowl team. I'm curious why (as a whole) Nebraska is perceived as a bad team that didn't meet expectations? I was watching ESPN's bowl preview show and was disappointed that Mike Belotti called Nebraska "a bad team" while Georgia was declared a team that persevered through injuries. Didn't Nebraska persevere through enough O-Line, WR, and QB injuries to make it to an 8-4 record? The O-line was so beat up that Vincent Valentine was needed on the FG team by the end of the season. Why is there no love for the Huskers?
Brian Bennett: "Bad" is a very subjective word, Matt, and not one I'd use to describe this Nebraska team. It's true that the Cornhuskers did get a whole lot of crummy luck when it came to injuries, including losing senior quarterback Taylor Martinez and much of the offensive line. Nebraska did a great job of persevering and pulling out victories in tough games against Northwestern, Penn State and Michigan, the latter two of which came on the road. If there's a difference between Nebraska and Georgia, it's that the Bulldogs have marquee victories over South Carolina and LSU and came within a miracle play of beating Auburn on the road. The Huskers didn't accomplish anything close to that and suffered three blowout losses at home -- to UCLA, Michigan State and Iowa.
Tim from Raleigh, N.C., writes: Will the Capital One Bowl be the last game Joel Stave starts for Wisconsin? I want Bart Houston (#BartHouston2014 which I try to get trending on Twitter) to start next year. I've been excited about this kid since he committed. I thought Gary Andersen might not be as thrilled since he is a pocket passer, but I looked at Houston's stats and he had 338 rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs in his senior HS season. He's supposed to have the better arm and can probably run better than Stave. I respect Stave a lot being an in-state walk on, but I don't think he's the answer for the next 2 years. I'm also scared Houston could then transfer. I don't want us to be in a Nebraska type situation where get stuck with a QB that you started as a freshman. Also, Houston has to start, HE'S NAMED AFTER BART STARR!!
Brian Bennett: Well, he's got a good name and some nice high school stats. There's an airtight case that he should start. Ahem.
There's nothing quite like the love for backup quarterbacks among fans. A player is almost never as popular as he is before he plays a significant down. Hey, Bart Houston might wind up as a great player. We have no idea. I'll tell you who does, though: Andersen, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and the rest of the Badgers staff. They've seen Houston practice every day since they've come to Madison. If they thought Houston was better than Stave, he would have played more by now.
Maybe Houston progresses in the offseason and overtakes Stave, who simply missed too many throws in 2013. Or maybe Tanner McEvoy makes a move at quarterback, though his future may well lie on defense after he played well at safety. It's no secret that Andersen likes mobile quarterbacks. Right now, though, Stave still has a huge experience edge. It will be up to someone else to outplay him in practice.
Brian Bennett: I don't, Matt. It's not that I think Narduzzi couldn't do a good job at Texas. It's just that I don't believe the Longhorns will hire a coordinator. They've got more money than Scrooge McDuck and are going to shoot for the moon with this job. Narduzzi might, however, benefit from a possible coaching carousel resulting from the Texas hire.
Kevin from Rock Island, Ill., writes: Illinois has really been going after the Juco players. What are your thoughts on the strategy and some of the signees so far? It has worked for Groce and the basketball program, but when there are so many holes, it seems like a short term fix to a bigger problem.
Brian Bennett: No doubt there are some issues with signing a lot of junior college guys. Not all pan out, and you risk getting in the cycle of needing more and more to fill gaps. But Tim Beckman really needs more depth and experience on the roster, and I think he sees this mostly as a short-term fix. The guys Illinois signed last year weren't exactly superstars, but players like Zane Petty and Martize Barr contributed, and Eric Finney might have done more than that had he stayed healthy. I can't pretend to know how good these incoming 2014 jucos will be, but I do like that the Stone-Davis brothers both fill needs at receiver and defensive backs and have three years left to play.
Connor M. from Lima, Ohio, writes: Love the work you guys do for the Big Ten! Looking ahead to next year, let's say Braxton and Shazier both play well in the Orange Bowl, raise their stock and turn pro. How much will the offense and defense be affected and who do you see replacing those two in their respective positions, most specifically, the QB spot?
Brian Bennett: Thanks, Connor. I think Ryan Shazier is the more likely of the two to go pro, and Ohio State could more easily absorb that loss, even though it would be a huge one. The defensive line should continue to improve, and there's a ton of young talent at linebacker and in the secondary on the way. Losing Braxton Miller, however, would change the whole outlook for the 2014 Buckeyes, especially since most of the offensive line and Carlos Hyde also are seniors. The only experience at all on the roster at quarterback is Cardale Jones, and he's a freshman who has thrown four passes. Freshman J.T. Barrett and incoming recruit Stephen Collier would battle Jones for the starting job, but Ohio State would basically be starting from scratch. In a much more difficult division.
BUCKIHATER from Future Home of the BigTen, NYC, writes: If you look back starting from the modern era of college football (1960's- present), the school who loves to put the word 'THE' in front of its name only has two claimed national titles -- you can even argue they should only have one if it wasn't for a really bad call, while the other happened before Woodstock. If you compare the 'THE' to other traditional football powerhouses like 'Bama, Miami, even Nebraska who all have 5 or more since the 60's, its not even close. Why does 'THE' get so much love on being the savior for the Big Ten? I was shocked to see the lack of championships over the last 50 years and Michigan State just did what every team in the Big Ten wanted to do for 2 years: Beat the bullies from Columbus.
Brian Bennett: So I take it you're not an Ohio State fan, then? Listen, if you want to start talking about national championships won by the Big Ten since the 1960s, this is not going to turn out well for anyone. Since 1970, we've got Michigan's split national title in 1997, Ohio State's in 2002 and ... hey, look, at that squirrel over there! The Buckeyes have been the only Big Ten team to even play for a national championship in the BCS era as a league member, and they've done it three times. So if you want to hate on Ohio State, that's fine. But that makes the rest of the conference look even worse by comparison.
Doug from KC, MO, writes: I have a Hawkeye question stemming from some recent conversations I've had with Nebraska fans. They always talk about whether to get another coach or not because they want to be contending for National Titles like the old (90's) days. I tell them for most teams in the country, and especially the BIG, this is pretty unrealistic. CFB is at a point where a lot of the odds/rules/recruiting are stacked against northern teams and outside of programs with lots of tradition (Mich, OSU and even ND) it is going to be very tough for you to have a regular NCG contender. I hope for a BCS game or Rose Bowl for Iowa every 4-5 years but it is just too much of a stretch for me to think Iowa (and other mid-tier BIG teams) will make a NCG appearance. Do you think some BIG teams have expectations that are too high or am I on the Debbie Downer side of the argument?
Brian Bennett: Doug, can you talk to BUCKIHATER for me? Anyway, I'm not sure enough Big Ten programs are ambitious enough. The Rose Bowl is great, but too many league teams talk like the Big Ten title is the ultimate goal, and I believe that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. How many times did you hear Urban Meyer talk about how much the Buckeyes just wanted to get to the Rose Bowl?
Anyway, as I just wrote a moment ago, the Big Ten hasn't exactly been reeling in the national titles. Here's the good news for the league, and for a team like Iowa: the forthcoming Playoff opens things up. Have a great year, win the Big Ten, and there's a chance you'll be in the four-team playoff. From there, who knows? Getting to that playoff, not the Rose Bowl, has to be the goal for every serious league team from 2014 on.
Chris from Northern Michigan writes: Happy holidays, Brian, and merry bowl season. I would like to get your thoughts on the MSU QB situation. Obviously it looks like Connor Cook has the job wrapped up for the next two years, barring injury or a huge year next year leading to NFL early entry. Would you expect Damion Terry or Tyler O'Connor to transfer? MSU just lost a QB recruit, and while it would be understandable that either current QB would want to play, a Cook injury could be catastrophic if either transfers.
Brian Bennett: Catastrophic? Well, you'd still have Cook and at least one backup. Not a whole lot of teams had to play three quarterbacks major minutes this season, outside of Nebraska. Cook will be hard to unseat after going 9-0 in the Big Ten and winning a title. I do think there will be some sort of role for Terry, because he's just too talented not to get on the field. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if O'Connor moved on.
And to your first point, Chris, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.
The ESPN Junior 300 athlete took pause after an improbable 13-10 win where his squad converted a fake field goal to win on the last play of the game, to look at Ohio State past, present and future.
Named the face of the 2015 recruiting class, the 29th-ranked junior in the nation pointed to the big numbers Ohio State has put up in the last 100 years and alluded to the fact it has had 78 consensus All-Americans and 369 first-team All-Big Ten picks as a big draw to become a Buckeye.
“You know you’re going to a place that always has a winning tradition and one that is known for winning championships and being in the big game,” Glover-Williams said. “They’re almost always great.”
But the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Glover-Williams wasn’t just talking about the teams of the past. Since he has been on the Buckeyes' radar the last 14 months, he has paid extra close attention to the school.
He saw a team bounce back from a 6-7 record in 2011 to become the only BCS team without a loss last season.
He knows the Buckeyes have won 18 games in a row and hold the nation’s longest winning streak among BCS teams with Alabama (10) its next closest threat.
He has also seen Ohio State hold on for wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern this season when both teams were nationally ranked.
“They can be great,” Eric Glover-Williams said. “I think they have a chance and I would like to see them play Alabama in the national championship. That’s something I hope I can see them do.
“Their success is all about the personnel on the field. They have to find whoever is clicking and keep doing what they do to win the game. I still think the same about Ohio State win or lose, but those games, they’re finding ways to win.”
While the Bulldogs standout loves to talk about Ohio State past and present, it only makes sense to talk about the future as he’s set to be a Buckeye in 2015.
Barring something strange happening, Glover-Williams knows players like Devin Smith and Braxton Miller will be out of the lineup at Ohio State when he gets there. That doesn’t mean the stable will be empty with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones or Stephen Collier at quarterback.
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Ohio State has plenty of evidence that Kenny Guiton can get the job done whenever he's called on to fill in for the starting quarterback, and the heady veteran gives the offense the luxury of running the same system without having to scale back its aggression.
But for all the confidence Urban Meyer has in his second option at quarterback, putting Guiton in the game does bring up one concern for the Buckeyes coach that has nothing to do with what he might be missing with Miller in the lineup. If Guiton is once again pressed into action due to Miller's knee sprain today at California, the No. 4 Buckeyes are potentially one play away from having to put somebody without the senior's knowledge and experience on the field to keep a national-title bid on track.
"We always have Plan B ready," Meyer said. "Now when Plan B is in the game, that means Plan C is not too far off, and that's one we're working on as well right now."
Any team has to give something up the further down in the pecking order it goes, and obviously the Buckeyes are no exception.
When Ohio State goes from Miller to Guiton, it loses the otherworldly athleticism that made the starter a fifth-place finisher for the Heisman Trophy last year, some of the threat of the quarterback rush and a bit of arm strength as well.
But if the Buckeyes for some reason need to go from Guiton to Cardale Jones, they'll be turning the offense over to a redshirt freshman who has never taken a snap in a meaningful situation, doesn't have nearly the same understanding of the playbook and would likely force a few tweaks to the game plan to take advantage of his physical rushing style over perhaps some passing skills that are still developing.
Meyer could also turn to true freshman J.T. Barrett, who has impressed from his first day on campus with his ability to absorb the system and a set of leadership skills that have already drawn comparisons to Guiton. Given the uncertainty that has surrounded their star and the knee issue that knocked Miller out after one drive in the win over San Diego State, the Buckeyes have certainly had to spend some time this week weighing their options.
All that planning may well go out the window if Miller once again proves his resiliency after a health scare, a game-time decision goes his way and he winds up leading the offense for all four quarters against Cal. But until Meyer makes that call, he'll still be thinking about every potential scenario at the most important position on the field.
"[Miller and Guiton] are both similar players, so it’s not like there’s a whole different game plan," Meyer said. "Now, Plan C -- Kenny is Plan B -- Plan C is a concern, just the width of what we can ask those guys to do, whoever it’s going to be.
" ... Plan C and Plan D are real close to each other right now."
The best-case scenario for Meyer is to keep them both real close to him on the sideline, leaving everything beyond Plan B irrelevant against Cal.
Post-spring depth chart: Braxton Miller starting over Kenny Guiton
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.
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.
The Buckeyes gained a commitment from Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County) in June, while Sean White (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University) chose Auburn this week.
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But pretend for a second those laws were relaxed and the Buckeyes and Wolverines each had a need so pressing that the programs at least kicked around some ideas. As part of our ongoing look this week at "The Game," a couple ESPN.com beat writers took a shot to see just what they could get from each other that might spur on a championship run for the current roster. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, here's a look at how a (fictional) deal might have gone down.
Subject: Don’t tell anybody
We probably shouldn’t even be talking, and if word gets out that we even considered making a deal, we might need to consider looking for new jobs. But since the rules against trades in college football magically vanished and we were hired for some reason to become general managers for Ohio State and Michigan, respectively, I think we at least owe it to ourselves to pursue all options. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Buckeyes were hit pretty hard by graduation in the front seven after knocking off the Wolverines to cap a perfect season last fall (in case you forgot about the celebration in the ‘Shoe). And recently the program has seen a group of linebackers that was already thin lose a couple more bodies that could have offered some help off the bench this fall. Additionally, while the future looks pretty bright at tackle for Taylor Decker or Chase Farris, right now there is one spot without much experience that tends to stand out when there are four seniors starting elsewhere on the line. So, I don’t know what position is troubling you most as training camp sneaks up on college football, but if there’s a potential swap or two that might help us both out, I am all ears. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Interim Ohio State personnel director
Subject: Too late
Unfortunately for you, I'm mouthy. And I've already started rumors you are trying to trade Braxton Miller for the remnants of Rich Rodriguez's offense. Apologies in advance. Not going to lie, looking over my roster I have concerns at wide receiver, running back and I could use some experience on the interior of the offensive line. Also, while there's some depth at cornerback, wouldn't mind grabbing one or two from you. Oh, and since you're interested in giving up Miller, that would solidify some of the depth issues there. I see you're fishing for a tackle. Sorry, Taylor Lewan is not available. While I like Michael Schofield a lot, he is more available at the right price. So too are some of the linebackers. What interests you on the Michigan squad? I'm willing to listen for anyone except for Lewan and quarterback Devin Gardner.
Fake Michigan personnel director
Subject: Re: BRAXTON
Hey bud, these talks just about ended instantly with any mention of the franchise quarterback being available. Newsflash -- Miller won’t be on the market heading into his senior season either, so get used to trying to defend him. At any rate, Schofield would be an intriguing option for the Buckeyes because he could provide another veteran presence with ample experience in the Big Ten, potentially giving Decker or Farris another year to develop physically before moving into the starting lineup in 2014. After getting a glimpse at what Desmond Morgan could do last fall when he made 11 tackles (in a losing effort) against Ohio State, he might look good in Scarlet and Gray, especially if the spring gave him flexibility to play in the middle. I probably don’t need to mention that Bradley Roby is untouchable in the secondary, but there is no shortage of talent alongside him in the backend. Might want to take a look at the stable of running backs the Buckeyes have in the fold as well -- but feel free to skip over Carlos Hyde.
Subject: No subject
Next on the list of quarterbacks is Stephen Collier, who showed well at the June 9 Buckeyes camp in a one-on-one, pitch-and-catch session with Urban Meyer.
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