Nine practices remain for Ohio State this spring, which means nine more chances for quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett to hold the undivided attention of the coaches.
They all know that come preseason camp in August, Braxton Miller — who is out of action this month after shoulder surgery — will step back into his spot at the front of the line headed into his senior season, his third as a starter. But as the two players battle for the backup job, and perhaps a leg up on the starting spot in 2015, Jones and Barrett are in the enviable position of holding the reins through spring with the chance to show why they deserve to be next.
“I think it’s telling that through six practices, Cardale Jones is still getting the majority of the reps with the (first-teamers),” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said yesterday of the third-year sophomore from Cleveland Glenville. “To say that he’s head and shoulders (ahead) or has taken a step forward, I don’t know that that would be accurate, but he hasn’t done anything to not deserve to take those reps.”
That also meant that Barrett, a redshirt freshman from Wichita Falls, Texas, is still very much in the running.
But neither distinguished himself in the first extended scrimmage of the spring on Saturday.
In the 40 minutes or so that the media was permitted to watch, Barrett seemed timid at times about pulling the trigger on passes, and Jones often threw high, wide or long. Herman saw the same things and was not pleased. One reason was because Jones, for example, had not done that in the practices before the scrimmage.
“It was a ‘This is my first scrimmage on a winner-loser day, running as the quarterback with the first offense at The Ohio State University, and I’m nervous as hell,’ ” Herman said. “And that showed.”
Barrett received similar reviews.
“They weren’t real happy with me. I said they played like — I used a couple of words that can’t be printed,” Herman said. “They got upset, and they should be, but not at me, at themselves for not demonstrating the kind of poise and confidence that they had shown in the previous four practices.
“Everything about spring ball is a learning experience, and these guys are doing that each and every rep they take.”
With the remaining practices — including the spring game on April 12 in Ohio Stadium — Herman said his message to both is, “Just be you.”
Herman wants Jones to better use some of the things that set him apart, not the least of which is his physical presence, at 6 feet 5, 250 pounds with good speed and a powerful arm.
“He can throw it through that wall,” Herman said. So the message to him is, “Use some of that. Use the talents that you have, and then while we develop the portions of your game that need to be developed, we’ll do that.”