The defending national champion Ohio State football team took the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the first time since walking off it in Arlington, Texas, less than two months ago.
And for the first time since August, a familiar face emerged onto the field donning the No. 5.
And no, it wasn’t Jeff Heuerman.
Redshirt-senior quarterback Braxton Miller participated in spring drills in a limited role Tuesday, as he is still rehabbing the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that held him out for the 2014 season. However, senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said Miller’s presence was encouraging to see.
“It’s good because people know his face around here. Even the young guys coming in, everybody knows Braxton,” Decker said. “It’s been awhile since he has been able to be out there with us.”
Coach Urban Meyer said Miller has made multiple trips to Birmingham, Ala., to rehab the shoulder injury and added he is happy with Miller’s honesty concerning the injury.
“Our day today was all about Braxton continuing along his journey to get healthy, which he has done an excellent job (with),” Meyer said. “I ask him everyday, ‘How’s it going?’ And he is man enough to tell me.”
Not only was Miller on the field, but redshirt-sophomore quarterback and the 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year J.T. Barrett entered the practice facility as well.
Barrett, though, is also coming back from a significant injury: a fractured ankle suffered against Michigan in the regular season finale.
Meyer said the Wichita Falls, Texas, native is ahead of schedule on his rehab.
“He was doing more than I thought he could,” Meyer said after practice. “We want to keep pushing him and get him healthy.”
Barrett didn’t participate in the Buckeyes’ team stretches or light running drills before practice, but he joined the other quarterbacks for passing drills shortly after.
Finally, redshirt-junior Cardale Jones was also back on the practice field for the first time since he led OSU to a 42-20 win against Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Jones was one of just two healthy scholarship quarterbacks on the practice field for the Buckeyes Tuesday, earning almost all the first-team reps.
Even with the success of Barrett and Jones in Miller’s absence last season, Meyer said he has not discussed moving Miller to another position.
“Our conversations are about health. I just want to see him get healthy,” Meyer said. “I think he can do whatever. He is athletic enough. But I still think he is a quarterback.”
With three viable options at the quarterback position, Meyer said he isn’t worried about the production on the field with any of the three, but rather having to tell two of his quarterbacks no.
“At some point there will be some (stress) because of the respect I have for those three guys. There is no stress at all as far as the functionality of the position,” Meyer said. “It’s the personalities, families and people involved. I have a lot of respect for those guys and everyone around here has seen what they have done.”
For the other players, Decker said he doesn’t worry about the quarterback battle because of the confidence he has in all three.
“I am going to let the coaches figure that out,” Decker said. “I know we have three great quarterbacks that can all play, and whoever they throw in there will be fine.”
So with three stars at the position, only one of whom is healthy, how is Meyer approaching the competition with months until kickoff?
“Day-to-day, player-by-player and that’s the focus,” he said. “How does it play out? I don’t know.”
The Buckeyes are set to take the field at Ohio Stadium on April 18 for their annual Spring Game before starting the 2015 campaign on the road against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7.