The most publicized position in all of sports is arguably the quarterback position, and at Ohio State, even the backup spot is a point of emphasis.
With senior Braxton Miller out for the spring after undergoing minor shoulder surgery in February, the competition to see who would be his backup became a big storyline throughout spring practice.
The two players most likely to fall next in line behind Miller — redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett — both got their chances to shine in front of 61,058 people Saturday, and neither seemed comfortable for a majority of the game.
Neither quarterback accounted for a touchdown. However, Barrett nearly broke free twice after keeping the ball on designed run plays before being whistled down. Both he and Jones sported black, no-contact jerseys once the game got under way.
Barrett finished the game 17-33 passing for 151 yards, also rushing for 25 yards on six carries. He led a pair of 80-yard scoring drives, while also leading a 90-yard drive that stalled on fourth and goal.
Jones, who coach Urban Meyer said after the game is in position to be Miller’s backup, got off to a very slow start. He headed into halftime just 6-15 passing for seven yards, including a pass play that resulted in a loss of 12 yards. After losing the ball in the end zone, Jones was forced to find a receiver in order to avoid a safety and dumped it off to junior wide receiver Kato Mitchell, who was well behind the line of scrimmage.
Jones improved his game in the second half, as he finished the game 14-31 passing for 126 yards while also rushing for 21 yards on four carries.
Meyer said he was unhappy with Jones’ performance.
“Cardale was disappointing,” Meyer said after the game. “I thought he made some misses today, but I’m not going to let that ruin his spring. He’s had a good spring for us.”
Despite a poor performance, Jones said he was excited to finally be on the field.
“It was pretty cool,” Jones said after the game. “I’ve been waiting for a long time and I’ve still got work to do to enhance my ability.”
Junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker, who sits as the lone returning starter on the OSU offensive line, said he was pleased that under the pressure of performing in front of a large crowd, the young quarterbacks didn’t buckle.
“To see that calmness in a quarterback, even though they may be a new guy, it’s still good to see from an offensive lineman standpoint,” Decker, who hardly saw time on the field Saturday, said.
The lone turnover committed by a quarterback was early on when Barrett — despite wearing the no-contact jersey — was hit from behind, forcing him to lose the ball in his own end zone. Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Rashad Frazier forced the fumble, then pounced on it, resulting in the Scarlet’s only touchdown of the game.
When asked if he thought he had locked up the backup spot, Jones was concise.
“Oh no, not at all,” Jones said.
The Buckeye quarterbacks have all summer to improve before fall camp opens, and OSU is scheduled to open the 2014 season at M&T Bank Stadium against Navy on Aug. 30 at noon.