The quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett and redshirt junior Cardale Jones is underway as the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes returned to practice Monday with the opening of fall camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
For months, speculation of who will be under center for the Buckeyes has been the topic of discussion, and OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Monday he is still not leaning in either direction as to who will be starting Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va.
“They’re both established guys,” Meyer said. “Cardale’s been here a long time now — what’s it, his eighth year here? J.T. has played a lot of football. We won’t announce anything until the first guy takes the field at Virginia Tech.”
Meyer said he plans on splitting the practice reps at quarterback “50-50,” at least throughout the initial days of practice. Determining who got the first-team reps on Monday was a lot simpler, however, as Barrett and Jones flipped a coin. Jones won the toss and got the first crack at the starting offense.
Barrett said no matter who starts, he knows the decision will come down to which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.
“The main thing is that we want the best for this team, and I said that whether that be myself, Cardale or (redshirt senior) Braxton (Miller), when he was playing (quarterback), it was who is going to put our position in the best chance to win,” he said.
Barrett said it would mean a lot for him to get the starting nod against Virginia Tech, especially after falling to the Hokies 35-21 in his second collegiate start last season.
“You could say I had that one marked on the calendar,” Barrett said. “So, it does mean a lot to me personally, being that I did play a game that we lost. I just wasn’t prepared. So with that, it means a lot.”
Jones said his focus would be entirely on football while camp is underway. One piece of evidence for his commitment to the sport, he said, is taking a two-week hiatus from his popular Twitter account.
“It’s all fun and games when we’re not on the field, but when we get on the field, it’s strictly business,” Jones said. “Whoever is going to win the battle, it’s going to be bittersweet — because you definitely want to see your friend or your teammate succeed — but only one guy can play.”
Jones said OSU’s offense has the potential to be one of the most dynamic offenses in college football history.
“My personal opinion, yes, hands down,” Jones said. “Because of the playmakers we got, because of the youth we got, the depth we got and because of the experience we have.”
Last year, both Jones and Barrett made cases to be considered the best man for the job heading into the 2015 season.
Barrett started 12 games for the Buckeyes as a redshirt freshman last season after being thrust into the starting role when Miller injured his shoulder shortly before the season. After a shaky start to the year, Barrett settled down and threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns before his season ended due to an ankle injury suffered in the regular-season finale against Michigan.
He was then replaced by Jones, who excelled in OSU’s three postseason games by throwing for 742 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes to victories in the Big Ten Championship Game, Sugar Bowl and National Championship Game.
OSU’s fall camp is set to continue through Aug. 24, leading up to the season opener in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.