Back in 1939, Dorothy Gale had a feeling she wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
In August, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer might have a gut feeling as well, in this case pertaining to who should be the quarterback for the Buckeyes in their national title defense. But unlike July Garland’s famous character from “The Wizard of Oz,” Meyer said he plans to rely on the hard evidence when it comes to his team’s future.
“This can’t be, ‘Well, I’m going with him because it’s my gut feeling,’” Meyer said after OSU’s Spring Game on Saturday. “Those gut feelings, it’s got to be statistical analysis and data backed up on who is going to play quarterback.”
The fourth-year OSU coach is set to choose between redshirt-senior Braxton Miller, redshirt-junior Cardale Jones and redshirt-sophomore J.T. Barrett, all of whom have found success as the Buckeyes’ starter. Miller led OSU to 24 straight wins between his sophomore and junior seasons, Barrett won 11 of his first 12 starts and Jones led OSU to three postseason wins in his first three starts as a Buckeye.
Now Miller is still rehabbing the shoulder injury that held him out for the entire 2014 season, Barrett is working back from a fractured ankle and Jones is continuing his development.
Meyer said he’s focused first and foremost on making sure the players get — and stay — healthy, but he acknowledged that a decision will have to come sooner or later. But instead of simply picking his favorite on a whim, Meyer stressed that the system will be systematic.
“I’ll come up with some kind of system throughout training camp that we’re going to chart everything that everyone does,” he said. “And we’ve kind of done it, but not to the degree that we’re going to do it this year. Because you have to be right on.”
Jones was the only one of the three quarterbacks fully available during spring practice, and was the only one to take part in the Spring Game. But as summer approaches, Jones said he’s focused on continuing to grow as a leader.
“Carrying this leadership over to the weight room and the summer conditioning, things like that,” Jones said Saturday. “So the guys I’ll be going with can see that they can trust and believe in me and they know I got their back.”
Even though the coaching staff will have limited time on the field with the players over the summer, Meyer said he won’t be giving his own instructions on what exactly each quarterback should work on.
Instead, it will be up to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck to break down Miller’s, Jones’ and Barrett’s exact technical goals.
“He’ll be more specific about what fundamentals to work on,” Meyer said. “Coach Beck will handle the individual improvement, technique improvement.”
When it comes to finally making that decision on who will start Sept. 7 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., when the Buckeyes open their regular season, Meyer said he’s hoping to avoid any surprises.
“I want to be able to look those people in the eye and say ‘this is where we’re at’ and not be a shocker when it happens,” he said. “But here’s what you need to do to get better and here’s where we’re at and keep pushing.”