- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is something of a historical pecking order in the Ohio State quarterback derby, and J.T. Barrett helpfully offered a quick refresher course after walking off the practice field.
The redshirt sophomore never beat out Braxton Miller when both were healthy. Before Barrett broke his ankle, Cardale Jones wasn't able to leap to the top of the depth chart to start a game for the Buckeyes, either.
But almost as soon as Barrett offers that dose of perspective to a three-way competition that hasn't even officially started thanks to those health concerns, he's quick to dismiss the past when it comes to settling on the best option to lead Ohio State's defense of its national title in the fall.
If Miller has never been topped before injury, and Barrett had the edge over Jones, does that mean it should be the depth chart when all are healthy?
"No, no, no," Barrett said. "It’s still a competition, it’s just the thought that nobody beat out anybody.
"When I came in and started playing, I was just doing my part as far as being a quarterback on the team. Same thing when I got hurt, Cardale was just doing his part. I think oftentimes it’s out there thinking that one person beat out another person, but nobody really beat out anybody. We were definitely competing when everybody was healthy trying to play, but then when the unfortunate things happened with Braxton and myself, we were just doing our part knowing that somebody had to step in and make plays."
The success Barrett and Jones had when pressed into that situation is what has created this three-man circus, with the seamless transition Barrett made replacing a Heisman Trophy candidate by becoming one himself, and then Jones taking over to lead the run to the championship, giving Ohio State an apparent embarrassment of riches.
Both former backups offered another history lesson after the second practice of spring camp on Thursday morning, stressing that a battle between these particular quarterbacks at Ohio State is really nothing new.
"It’s always been a competition to us, ever since I stepped on campus and Kenny [Guiton] was here," Jones said. "For you guys, this is the first time ever you guys got to see all three of us get a chance to play, but it’s always been a competition.
"[Last year] really doesn’t mean anything now. That meant a lot to us as far going through that run we had, but I don’t think last year is going to affect the competition for this year."
Similarly, Miller's track record leading the spread offense and his two Big Ten Player of the Year trophies won't have any impact moving forward for the Buckeyes, which in many ways makes the reflecting about past competitions irrelevant.
It does, however, offer something of an indication of how much respect Miller still has from his peers in perhaps the most closely scrutinized quarterback room in college football history. Though he declined to meet with the media and hasn't spoken publicly since injuring his shoulder for the second time during training camp before last season, his decision to put on an Ohio State uniform this spring and not use his degree to transfer elsewhere suggests he's not afraid of competing once more against two guys he's already held off before.
Of course, there wasn't a fifth-place finisher in the Heisman race or a postseason dynamo who won the inaugural College Football Playoff to contend with back then, either. The faces haven't changed since this time a year ago for Ohio State, but Miller is no longer the only guy with history on his side.
"That’s the thing, we compete every year," Barrett said. "We encourage each other, there’s not any bad blood between any of us. Those are like my brothers, my older brothers, and we’re just competing to try to get better for the program.
"Last year there was a competition, and that’s the way it is. Nobody is really safe around here. You start playing bad, the guy behind you is probably just as good. You really can’t be relaxed with anything you’re doing. It’s always a competition, that’s just what it is."
The Buckeyes have been through all this before, and they are well aware of how it turned out. But this is a new chapter, and the record books aren't going to decide the future for Ohio State.
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