COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even though many of you are yet encased in the unending ice and snow of the longest winter in recorded history, in just over two short weeks from now the Buckeyes will begin spring practice. If that doesn't thaw out the cold just a bit, nothing will.
OSU Spring Forecast: Quarterback
By Tony Gerdeman
In the first of our Spring Forecasts, we start at quarterback, where the Buckeyes have a leading Heisman candidate and little else in the way of proven players. The depth chart is intriguing, as the experience of Braxton Miller mixes with the unseen potential of three youngsters.
Who's Coming Back?
Braxton Miller returns, as do his trophies, accolades and 4.4 speed. Miller is the most dynamic player in the Big Ten, yet still held back a bit by his sporadic passing.
Last year's #3 quarterback Cardale Jones is back, and the redshirt sophomore will finally get a chance to throw the ball, as opposed to simply handing the ball off or running it.
Battling Jones for the back-up spot will be redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett and true freshman Stephen Collier, who has enrolled early. Despite Barrett sitting last season out, this will be his second spring with the Buckeyes.
Gone is Kenny Guiton, the future mayor of Columbus. The level of comfort that the team and coaches had in Guiton will likely not be the same for whomever wins the back-up job this time around. Still, it's a good goal for each of the young QBs to shoot for.
Expectations Heading Into Spring
There are a couple of expectations this spring, and one of them will be a more accurate Braxton Miller. Miller looked good last spring and summer, but faded as a passer in November. He should return to form by April, but the question of his accuracy won't be answered until next November.
The other expectation is for an all-out war between Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Stephen Collier to be Miller's back-up. Jones and Barrett are the favorites given the advantage they have over Collier in terms of time on campus.
Urban Meyer and Tom Herman are going to want to see what they have in Barrett and Jones, so there could be an awful lot of snaps for both of them as Meyer tries to find his back-up. True freshmen have yet to receive many reps under Meyer and Herman, so Collier will have to turn some heads early.
Best Case Scenario
The best-case scenario would be for Braxton Miller to look absolutely competent, and for the coaches to see no need to overburden him with too many snaps.
If Miller is advanced enough to skip a few reps, then that's all the better for Jones, Barrett and Collier. If at least two of the three can make it a difficult decision for Tom Herman, then he will be a happy offensive coordinator. What the coaches don't want, however, is to have Braxton Miller and nobody else. Even if it's just one back-up emerging, the Ohio State coaches will take it.
One to Watch For
Buckeye fans have already gotten a look at Cardale Jones, which is why J.T. Barrett is the guy to watch right now if for no other reason than we haven't gotten to see him yet. Barrett could very well be the future at the position for Ohio State, and if he is, he should end up showing it pretty quickly. Because he was redshirting last year, we haven't gotten to see him in many scrimmage settings, so this spring should be very interesting in that regard.
Trending Up or Down
The entire quarterback position at Ohio State is trending up, as is Braxton Miller. With the improvement that he has made each season, it makes sense to expect a similar jump in 2014 as well. With an increased number of receivers to work with, Miller should have more playmakers to get involved with.
Overall, the level of talent at quarterback is on its way to reaching heights that are rarely seen at Ohio State. Of course, that will depend upon how the young quarterbacks mature, and how well the position is recruited moving forward.
Quarterback is going to be a position of strength for Ohio State in 2014, but the lasting memory that many people will have will be of Braxton Miller's struggles to close out the 2013 season. He will need to re-convince some people that he's as good as they used to think he was.
With another year to develop, the rough edges that Miller has become known for should be smoothed a bit. How smooth they are, however, won't be known until next fall. That being said, he's still the two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, so let's not pretend that he's some middling quarterback.
The competition for the back-up quarterback will be interesting to watch because it's the first competition we've seen at back-up quarterback in a long time at Ohio State. With the number of snaps Miller has missed due to injuries in his career, the back-up quarterback will be one of the most important players on the team.
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