COLUMBUS, Ohio — The most-talked-about quarterback competition in college football even has the other Ohio State Buckeyes paying more attention than usual to preseason practices.
“It is very interesting,” chatty safety Tyvis Powell said Sunday during Buckeyes’ media day. “You know what it does, when you’re not in, you sit back and you watch. You’re like, ‘He’s having a bad day, but he’s having a really good day.’ And then it flips, ‘You know he’s having a bad day, but he’s having a really good day.’
“I can’t wait to see who’s going to jog out there on Sept. 7.”
J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones?
The 2014 Big Ten player of the year or the guy who came out of nowhere to guide the Buckeyes to the national championship after Barrett was injured?
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says he will not reveal the answer until the defending national champions open their season Labor Day night against Virginia Tech, the last team to beat the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has three days of two-a-day practices this week, starting Monday. If either Jones or Barrett is going to seize the job, this would be an excellent time to do it.
While Meyer would prefer the starter to be a game-time decision publicly, he probably needs to make a choice the week before opening night for the purposes of game-planning.
Meyer said he would meet with co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner on Sunday to go over the data from the first week of practice. So far, Meyer likes what he sees from both players.
“I think they’re both right there and you probably wouldn’t expect me to say anything different, but that’s what it is. They’re both working they’re tails off and it’s one of the most refreshing competitions I’ve ever witnessed,” Meyer said. “When I say best friends, they’re unbelievable how well they get along.”
The reality is Barrett and Jones have been competing with each other since the spring of 2014, when they were vying to be Braxton Miller’s backup.
“I don’t think it’s something that will ever change in our relationship,” said Barrett, who set a Big Ten record by accounting for 45 touchdowns before breaking his ankle in the season-finale against Michigan.
Jones won the spring last year, but Barrett took the job in August. Then Miller re-injured his throwing shoulder late in camp and Barrett secured the starting job.
Barrett learned from last year to not try to one-up Jones in practice.
“He made a play then I got to force it and then I throw a pick and it’s like why’d you do that? I didn’t really have an answer,” Barrett said. “What am I going to tell (former offensive coordinator Tom) Herman. ‘I tried to make a play because Cardale made a play?’ He would have probably move me to like, longsnapper.
“It’s just focusing on myself and then what’s best for the offense.”
Jones said he also has a much healthier attitude than last year, when he was too concerned about being able to match Miller, the two-time Big Ten player of the year who is now moving to receiver.
“Know what you can and know what you can’t do,” said Jones, 9-month-old daughter Chloe Michelle on his knee working a pacifier while her now famous father did interviews during an Ohio State media day for the first time since becoming a member of the team in 2012.
In three starts last season, Jones became one of the most recognizable names in college football. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior passed for 742 yards and five touchdowns in Ohio State victories against Wisconsin (Big Ten title game), Alabama (national semifinal) and Oregon (College Football Playoff championship).
It was a remarkable turnaround for a player who Meyer has said had a lot of growing up to do.
Jones acknowledges he did not handle well coming out on the short end of last year’s competition with Barrett.
“I kind of went to kind of a dark place,” Jones said.
Jones said that will not be a problem last year. He wants to win the job, but it losing it will not break him — or Barrett.
“We know we want the best for each other and most important we want the best for the team,” Jones said. “It’s going to be bittersweet for whoever starts.”
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