COLUMBUS, Ohio — When it was announced that quarterback Braxton Miller would miss the spring due to shoulder surgery, thoughts quickly turned to the two biggest beneficiaries – Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, each of whom are vying to win the backup job behind Miller.
OSU Quarterback Race — Jones and Barrett "Like Picking 1A or 1B" Right Now
By Tony Gerdeman
Without Miller taking snaps and reps, both Jones and Barrett will get more work this spring than anybody had anticipated. While not having Miller around is a setback, the benefit for the two quarterbacks behind him could very well outweigh any negatives.
"It's very valuable," quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman admitted.
Photo by Dan Harker
"Maybe a blessing in disguise to be honest with you for those two guys to be able to get the quality of reps that they're getting this early in camp. I think it's really good for both of those guys. Cardale running with the ones the last two days, and J.T. with the twos."
In an ideal world, Miller's shoulder injury would have never required surgery and the rehab would have worked itself out in the two months leading up to the spring. When that didn't happen, it opened some new possibilities and advantages for the Ohio State quarterback situation.
Herman and head coach Urban Meyer are now going to get a much better look at their quarterback depth than they would have had Miller been good to go. Not only will they learn more about their quarterbacks, but their quarterbacks will learn more as well.
"Who knows had Braxton been taking all of the snaps with the ones and Cardale with the twos, where does that leave J.T.?" Herman asked.
J. T. Barrett
Photo by Dan Harker
"And then you've got to split reps and rotate and it's hard to get into a rhythm. It's been nothing but positive for those two guys."
The key for any successful program is to continue to make positives out of negatives, and losing a three-year starter to shoulder surgery is absolutely a negative. However, the experience that each young quarterback will gain this spring is something that would have been impossible to simulate without actual snaps taking place.
With more reps and work to coach and critique, Herman is able to see the problems that his guys are having already, and he's also able to build their confidence and strengthen what they do well. More work brings more consistency, and it's the consistency that he wants his players focused on.
"Both of them are really, really bright guys that kind of understand the offense," Herman explained.
"They've been around a while. They know. I told J.T. that everybody kind of gets paid to do different things in my room. 'J.T. you don't get paid to run 4.3 like Braxton, or get paid to be 6-foot-5 like Cardale, you get paid to be accurate, so be accurate. That's the only thing you've got to do, make great decisions and be accurate.'
"'And Cardale, you get paid to get the ball out of your hands, and this is what you get paid to do, so do that, and do it really, really well and then we'll continue to enhance the other part.' I'm never going to make J.T. Barrett 6-foot-5, and I'm never gonna change Cardale's release, or whatever his deficiencies are. A lot of those can't be changed, so let's accentuate our strengths, and make sure our strengths shine through in these practices and then we'll kind of go from there."
The number of reps that both players are now able to get with Miller out this spring will help to build the consistency that Herman is looking for, and that process has begun much earlier than anybody thought it would.
The ability to match what they are seeing in practice to what Herman is teaching them in his quarterback room should speed up their learning process because they are able to hit the practice field and tangibly apply what they are being taught.
So far, both quarterbacks are performing up to expectation, though those expectations are grounded in the fact that each of them is still very young.
"Verbally they do a great job," Herman said of their knowledge of the offense.
"And when they don't know, they ask, or they say 'I don't know.' They don't babble, they don't try to BS their way through an answer. They say, 'Coach, I don't know.' Or 'Coach, can you explain that again?' It's really good."
When those questions arise in the future, both Jones and Barrett could very well be able to draw upon what they saw this spring on the field, rather than something seen on film done by Braxton Miller.
The practical application of things being taught is much easier done when the lessons have actually been put into practice on the field, and that's exactly what is happening for both young players, and it's making this a tight race right now for Herman.
"They're on a great trajectory," he said.
"I think if they continue on this path, which I can't imagine them deviating from, then we'll be fine in the fall in terms of whoever. It's like picking 1A or 1B. But we've got a long way to go. We've just practiced two days in our underwear. We haven't done much."
While it has only been two practices to this point, that number will soon grow to 15, and the snaps will have been split almost evenly between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.
Had Braxton Miller not had shoulder surgery, neither quarterback would have gotten the reps that they got this spring. Knowing how important Ohio State's backup quarterback was a year ago, not having Miller this spring may also be a blessing in disguise for the Buckeyes.
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