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Ohio State's spring stage belongs to Cardale Jones

4/15/2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There are times when Ohio State's hotly-anticipated, three-man quarterback derby has included two of the decorated candidates during camp, but the spring game won't be one of them.

J.T. Barrett's recovery from a fractured ankle has seemingly progressed ahead of schedule, and the redshirt sophomore has even had a chance to take snaps in more than mini-field or seven-on-seven situations heading into the final week of practice and Saturday's exhibition.

But the risk is still too great for re-injury at this point and Braxton Miller remains about two months away from throwing at full strength again, leaving the Buckeyes with just Cardale Jones and reserve Stephen Collier when they scrimmages this weekend in the Horseshoe. And while that won't do much to sort out the upcoming quandary at quarterback, Barrett has already started providing some competition for Jones and setting the stage for the race on tap in August.

"We're exactly where we need to be at the end of spring practice," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "... We probably got [Barrett] more reps than I thought we'd get him. Our trainers did a good job, and we were going to be very cautious with him, but we practiced better this year than we have in the past.

"We actually got J.T. Barrett in a couple two-minute situations because our guys know how to practice better. You have to handle that situation, because if you re-injure it he's done for the year."

The Buckeyes, of course, are planning on having plenty of depth on hand just in case more health issues arise again in the fall. But there's certainly no reason for them to rush Barrett back for a game that doesn't mean anything, which will once more keep the spotlight squarely on Jones.

During a couple open sessions this spring, the two have shared the spotlight occasionally, alternating snaps without a live pass rush and putting on a show on the practice field -- Barrett flashing his accuracy, Jones unleashing his arm strength and back and forth. Eventually Miller will squeeze his way into the rotation again as well, though for now Jones is effectively the only man standing, just as he was on the run to the national title.

"I've been told [Miller's] rehab is going good," Meyer said. "He's the only person I really trust in this. I think medical guys have jobs to do, but the player knows. I've known Braxton for a long time, and almost every day, 'How's it going? Talk to me.' He says it's going very well.

"The fact that we get it rechecked down with Dr. [James] Andrews' staff, I think it's three times already, we're pretty pleased with what's going on."

That progress would put the entire trio on track for an epic training camp in the fall. But spring will officially come to a close with just one of the starters in action.

Filling positions: The Buckeyes didn't have many jobs available in the first place, but anybody hoping to make a run at one in the fall is probably out of luck.

Ohio State appears to have settled on leading candidates at each of the five notable spots that needed to be filled, and in some cases Meyer is already prepared to name a starter.

"A lot of guys get the mentality that they're going to go win the job in August," Meyer said. "The spot in August is already done and we're going to try to go win a football game. Things happen in August, but that's not the time to go get a spot."

Among the guys who made the most of April, Noah Brown continued to draw high praise from the coaching staff and is on the brink of being designated a first-team receiver.

Chase Farris has the edge at right tackle, Gareon Conley is in line for action at cornerback and Tommy Schutt and Tyquan Lewis are the current favorites to round out the defensive line. Lewis, though, will miss the spring game with a shoulder injury that isn't believed to be a long-term issue.

Hitting the road: There's a possibility Ohio State may follow in the footsteps of Michigan and Penn State and take part in satellite camps that are designed to boost recruiting away from campus, but that doesn't mean Meyer has to like it.

"I think we're thinking of doing one, I can't tell you if it's been finalized," he said. "Am I fan of that? Not really. A big lure to Ohio State is getting them here on campus. I think what happens is monkey see, monkey do. They did this, let's go do it. ... We're not going to do it because some other schools have tried it.

"I think that should be outlawed. We shouldn't be allowed to do that. I think you just recruit on campus and do a good job."