May 6, 2013

Spring grades: quarterback

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice now in the books, we find ourselves just three months away from the opening of Urban Meyer's second fall camp as the head coach at Ohio State. With that in mind, we're taking a look back at what we've seen and learned from each position group throughout this offseason, starting with today's look at the Buckeyes' quarterback position.

Spring grade: B+

Ohio State's quarterback position starts with Braxton Miller, who won the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year award in his first season under Meyer, while breaking the Buckeyes' single season record for total offense. Just keeping Miller healthy this spring alone should be worth a passing grade for Tom Herman's group, although his improved mechanics throwing the ball help push the position's grade closer to an 'A.'

Depth behind Miller remains an issue -- especially in an offense like Meyer's where a quarterback can taking a beating -- but the OSU coaching staff remains confident in fifth-year senior Kenny Guiton. Redshirt freshman Cardale Jones will likely enter the fall as the Buckeyes' No. 3 quarterback, while true freshman J.T. Barrett recovers from a torn ACL that limited his availability in spring practice.

Spring surprise: Braxton Miller's leadership

While Miller looked improved as a passer this spring, as seen evident by his 16-for-25, 217-yard, two-touchdown performance in the spring game, it was perhaps his leadership that took the greatest stride forward this spring. Entering his junior season and third as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback, the OSU coaching staff was more than pleased with the growth that Miller made in the spring, with Herman describing his leadership as a "night and day" difference from where it was a year ago.

The fundamental strides that Miller made were necessary, after he completed just 58.3 percent of his passes in 2012, but his growth as a leader should not go unnoticed. With senior leaders such as John Simon and Zach Boren having departed from last season undefeated OSU squad, the Buckeyes find themselves in need of a voice for their upcoming team, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

To be determined: Cardale Jones' status

While the coaching staff knows what it has in Miller, and thinks it knows what it has in Guiton, Jones remains a question mark. At 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, the Cleveland Glenville product certainly has the physical tools to run Meyer's spread offense, but his play has been inconsistent at best in his short Ohio State career.

In last month's spring game, Jones completed just seven of his 16 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown, and also ran the ball eight times for a total of 37 yards. The redshirt freshman certainly seems (at least) a year away from being able to contribute significantly, and any time he's asked to spend on the field this season could be problematic for the Buckeyes, which is not uncommon when it comes to third-string quarterbacks.

Looking ahead: J.T. Barrett

Although he was limited this spring due to his injury, the Ohio State coaching staff seems to like what it sees in Barrett, the first quarterback that it successfully recruited upon arriving in Columbus. The former four-star recruit won't be able to showcase his full skill set until he's fully recovered, and even then, he's more than likely to take a redshirt in 2013.

With Guiton being a senior and Miller potentially heading off to the pros after this season, you never know where Barrett may find himself a year from now. In fact, it's not out of the realm of the possibility that the Texas native could be the favorite to be the Buckeyes' first-team signal caller in a mere 12 months.


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