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A way-too-early look at Ohio State's 2015 quarterback depth chart

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Ohio State could have as many as six scholarship quarterbacks on the roster next season. What's likely to happen? We take a look at the projections for next year's field.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The old saying is that if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none. But what if you have six? Given Ohio State's recent recruiting, it's entirely possible that's how the roster shakes out next season. Here's how everything looks right now:

1. The Prodigal Son: Braxton Miller

Braxton

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative:

Miller was the unquestioned starter before tearing his labrum in camp. Miller has been consistent in proclaiming that he intends to come back next season, and Urban Meyer has been equally consistent in his praise of Miller. This notion has created some controversy among Buckeye fans, many of whom have been pleasantly surprised by the development and poise shown by J.T. Barrett in relief this season. Miller also bears the cross of having never won a bowl game or a Big Ten title, which is pretty silly: Miller's first bowl appearance was in the disastrous 2011 season, a loss to Florida that was nigh-unwatchable (just like that whole season). His second season saw the Buckeyes go 12-0 but not play in the inaugural B1G title game or a bowl game thanks to NCAA sanctions from the Tressel era. Hang the blame on Miller for the 2013 B1G championship defeat or the Orange Bowl loss if you'd like, just know that you're pinning those games on a guy playing through a few debilitating injuries in games where the Buckeyes were out-coached and/or were missing a key contributor or two in multiple phases. Miller certainly wasn't perfect in either of those losses, but 21-2 in his last two seasons as a starter is damn near close to it.

The Numbers:

Per Sports-Reference and CBS, Miller's 2013 season shook out like this:

  • Passing: 63.5% completions, 2094 yards, 24 touchdowns, 158.1 passing efficiency rating
  • Rushing: 1068 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns
  • Turnovers: 7 interceptions, 5 fumbles lost

The Outlook:

There is still a good chance that Braxton Miller is once again the starting quarterback of the Ohio State Buckeyes for the 2015 season. He posted those numbers against some solid defenses, and has been a big play threat his entire career. The staff has previously stated that Miller is their guy for as long as he cares to be. Should the Buckeyes stay hot down the stretch to finish the regular season 11-1, and perhaps win the B1G title game or crack a spot in the playoff, this conversation could very well look different. But for now this is the reality, and it could certainly be a lot worse. Things are less clear-cut than they were before the Buckeyes trounced Michigan State, but there has been no indication yet of a deviation from the original plan, assuming Miller is healthy.

Should he choose to forego his original plan and his final year of eligibility, it will be interesting to see what Miller's NFL Draft prospects look like. As a quarterback coming off of a 2-year stretch of bad injury luck, he likely wouldn't go before the 4th round, but there has also been plenty of buzz about trying to convert the ultra-fast Miller into a wide receiver or even running back at the next level. One need look no further than Michigan to see an example of this already paying dividends for a player who didn't grade out as an NFL QB.

There has also been some buzz about Miller using a graduate transfer as a final option, but no concrete reports indicate he's seriously considering it. He would be eligible to play immediately, and there are plenty of places he could go that would have less competition for the starting job. Given the coaching staff's love for Miller and the love that Miller has for Ohio State, this is probably pretty unlikely.

2. Mr. Fantastic: J.T. Barrett

J.T. Barrett

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative:

Barrett has done a superlative job as the starter this season with very little time to prepare for the role. He took 1st-team snaps all spring while Braxton Miller recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, but was more a placeholder than anything. That all changed in late August when Miller tore his labrum in an awful non-contact throwing incident. The Buckeyes were immediately written off for the season -- their Vegas title odds plummeted, and the mood surrounding Ohio State fans was positively funereal. Enter J.T. Barrett.

The redshirt freshman has looked better with each passing week. Erase an awful team-wide performance against Virginia Tech (and trust us -- we really wish we could), and Barrett has looked comfortable beyond his years while directing a record-setting offensive juggernaut. The young quarterback produces touchdowns as though there are only a finite number of them left in the world and he wants his cut. The Buckeyes are 9-1, 1st in the B1G East, and have hung 50 or more points on opponents in 5 of the last 8 games. Barrett's control of the offense is a huge part of that. He had his coming-of-age moment against the favored Michigan State Spartans -- we've recapped that ad infinitum -- which could help leverage him back into the starting role next season.

The Numbers:

Through 9 games as the Ohio State starting quarterback, Barrett has accounted for:

  • Passing: 64.0% completions, 2356 yards, 28 touchdowns, 172.9 passing efficiency rating
  • Rushing: 771 yards, 5.7 yards per carry, 9 touchdowns
  • Turnovers: 8 interceptions, 0 fumbles lost

The Outlook:

Barrett is the putative No. 2 heading into next season with anything short of a playoff berth this year (or perhaps a B1G title and 12-1 record but no playoff berth). The redshirt freshman has done everything expected of him and then some, and even his crap performances have had a little magic in them -- putting the team on his back in 2OT against Penn State despite a lackluster showing in regulation was a veteran move that showed how much heart Barrett really has. It seems a shame to waste a year of having Barrett at the helm by stashing him on the bench, but that's the potential #firstworldproblem faced by Buckeye fans heading into next season.

Barrett is really, really good -- check out the tape of him keeping his eyes upfield while hitting Michael Thomas on his 4th read while being flushed out of the pocket against Illinois, if you don't believe it -- but he's also faced some ridiculously bad defenses that have no doubt made his stats look a little more gaudy than they perhaps would in a vacuum. The one obvious advantage that Barrett has over Braxton Miller is his ability to stay healthy. Regardless of who eventually is settled on as the starter, there's still a decent chance we see a lot of Barrett next season if Miller's injury woes don't disappear. The perspective seems like it might have shifted slightly in Barrett's favor now that the Michigan State game is behind him, but a lot still remains to be seen.

3. The Hype Machine: Torrance Gibson

Gibson

Photo Credit: Student Sports

The Narrative:

Gibson was one of the most prized recruits in the 2015 class, and Ohio State emerged as the favorite for his services late in the commitment process. The Florida native has absurd physical upside, and will be a tremendous asset to the Ohio State offense when he takes the field. Gibson could end up suiting up at quarterback, but he also projects well as a wide receiver -- think rich man's Jalin Marshall. He's a smooth runner in the mold of Terrelle Pryor, with 4.47 speed. We very well might see Gibson directing one of the most potent offenses in the country in another few years.

The Numbers:

Obviously, Gibson hasn't seen the field yet for the Buckeyes. Here's how he's fared as a high school senior through 11 games this season:

  • Passing: 48.5% completions, 1554 yards, 16 touchdowns, 101.2 QBR
  • Rushing: 768 yards, 7.1 yards per carry, 9 touchdowns
  • Turnovers: 1 interception, 1 fumble lost

The Outlook:

It's hard to say where Gibson might stand in the quarterback pecking order next season. Should the coaching staff decide to redshirt him, he'll obviously be out of the running for 2015. A more intriguing prospect is that Gibson keeps his eligibility for next year and is utilized as a Swiss Army knife-type player -- lining up at wideout, taking jet sweeps, grabbing snaps in the spread offense as a change-of-pace QB -- Meyer and the rest of the coaches could very well decide to get creative with the phenomenal skill set they have on their hands.

Gibson is a ways off from being considered a viable option as the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. Against high school competition, he's not even completing 50% of his passes. This is obviously troublesome. Accuracy is not an unfixable problem with Urban Meyer paving the way for his development -- see Tebow, Timothy Richard -- but it's still difficult to see Gibson supplanting J.T. Barrett down the road with how accurate and efficient the latter has been with the football this season. Either way, Buckeye fans should be excited to see what the future holds for such a dynamic playmaker.

4. The Other Guy: Joe Burrow

Burrow

Photo Credit: Student Sports

The Narrative:

Slightly lost in the justifiable excitement of the Ohio State fan base after Gibson's commitment has been the fact that the Buckeyes have had another class of 2015 QB commit locked up for months. Joe Burrow, out of Athens, has quietly been having a monster year. Burrow is a three-star prospect who gave his verbal commitment to OSU back in May. He's a much more traditional pocket passer than any of the other QBs in Ohio State's stable, but he still has wheels, which can make him a versatile asset in this offense. t's fair to say that Burrow is a lot further along than Torrance Gibson in his development as a passer, but that doesn't mean he'll project higher on the depth chart as a freshman.

The Numbers:

Burrow has been absolutely clowning fools all season down in Athens. Through 12 games as the starter this season, his totals look like this (per MaxPreps):

  • Passing: 74.1% completions, 3350 yards, 48 touchdowns, 153.7 QBR
  • Rushing: 423 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns
  • Turnovers: 1 interception, 1 fumble lost

The Outlook:

The 6'4, 205-pound Burrow won't get a chance to shine in his first two seasons in Columbus. There's too much established talent ahead of him, and for now it appears that of the two incoming freshman quarterbacks, Meyer and co. are higher on Torrance Gibson. Still, that doesn't mean that Burrow won't someday get his shot. Should Gibson be utilized as a weapon in a position other than quarterback, it's not inconceivable to think that Burrow could someday be the No. 1 guy. All of this is wild speculation at this point, as is any #analysis involving guys who have yet to even set foot on campus as students yet, so we'll all have to stay tuned to see what becomes of Joe Burrow's Buckeye career.

Speaking of wild speculation...

5-6. The Transfer Rumors: Cardale Jones and Stephen Collier

Cardale Jones

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative:

We'll start here with Jones, who is certainly more familiar to Buckeye fans than Collier. He generated sports Twitter's most beaten of dead horses by famously declaring his opinion on school vis-a-vis football, and has appeared in several games in relief of Barrett this season. Jones played the entire second half against Illinois to give fans their first real look at what he offers as a quarterback. He has played serviceably in each of his chances in 2014. Like a shooting star, his appearances have been brief but wondrous to behold. Like a shooting star, he could also very well be gone before long. Jones is 6'5 and 250 pounds with a huge arm, and is unafraid to take off and run when the situation calls for it. There are plenty of schools who could use a skill-set like that. But it's hard to see Jones as any kind of factor in the Buckeye offense next season, even if Braxton Miller leaves for the pros.

All we've really seen from Jones to this point in his career is in the context of a game manager, who just needed to come in and keep the chains moving and the clock running. There has yet to be a situation in which Jones has been called upon to do what Kenny Guiton did in 2012 and 2013 and win a close game or two after a starter's injury left the outcome in question. So we don't necessarily know what Jones is "made of," per se, the way we felt we knew about Kenny G. Given his remaining eligibility and his likely place on the depth chart, it would not be surprising if Jones left to start somewhere else. We're not asking him to, of course. Only that it wouldn't be a surprising decision.

Collier

Photo Credit: Student Sports

Stephen Collier has not yet had his chance to show what he's capable of at the college level. The former three-star prospect enrolled at Ohio State in January after committing last December. He was pursued by schools like Cincinnati, Georgia State, and Boston College before ultimately picking the Buckeyes. Collier's Twitter account often provides a humorous look at the goings-on in the locker room, and he has been nothing but supportive of the quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. Also appearing on Twitter recently was a statement from Collier regarding his future in light of Torrance Gibson's commitment to Ohio State.

That would appear to indicate that the young quarterback intends to continue to stay on as a member of the Buckeyes, regardless of where that might leave him in the pecking order. In light of that, let the record show that the next section of this article is nothing more than an examination of some programs where Jones and Collier might be better fits, not necessarily things that are likely to happen or things that this writer would endorse happening to either of these fine young men.

Hypothetical Options:

Glad we got that out of the way. Trenchant analysis be damned! Let's speculate! Where could these two quarterbacks go that would allow them to have more visible college careers and possibly boost their pro prospects?

One place I could see Cardale Jones being a great fit is Syracuse. The Orange could very well have been a bowl-bound team this season with anything even remotely approaching competent quarterback play, and Jones could give that to them. Scott Shafer, for all his bluster, has been a decent coach who is seriously lacking in personnel. Injuries and inconsistency doomed the Orange in turns this year, and an old hand with young legs, like Jones, could be just the shakeup that Syracuse is looking for at the quarterback position. On a personal note, some success on the gridiron would also give everyone I grew up with (sup, 315) something besides Syracuse basketball to be insufferable about. Nice change of pace IMO.

In high school, one of the programs that recruited Jones was the Miami (OH) Redhawks. They currently boast a 2-9 record. I think the CFB Twitter-verse deserves a chance to see the collision of two of its favorite memes: Cardale "ain't come to play school" Jones and MACtion ... a match made in heaven? Jones would certainly be an upgrade for the Redhawks -- quarterback, defensive end, punter, you name it -- and it would give him the chance to actually start a full season and show off his arm. Crazier things have certainly happened, and Jones might want to take a flyer on a school that could bolster his draft stock even marginally.

Is all of this sounding crazy yet? Most likely. Don't jump off the train yet, folks, there's more where that came from.

Collier is in the midst of his freshman year. He's got plenty of eligibility left, meaning he can afford to be more patient that Jones. A really interesting landing spot for Collier? The Florida Gators have fallen victim to subpar quarterback play for two years now. Treon Harris is only a freshman (and Jeff Driskel is apparently a junior somehow, making him the Aaron Craft of college football players), but who knows what things might look like under whomever replaces Will Muschamp next season? (Full disclosure: despite regularly editing LGHL's recruiting pieces, I know next-to-nothing about who other schools might have in the pipeline. Mea culpa if I'm accidentally ignoring any obvious issues with these #hot #takes.) Collier's dual-threat potential would certainly align nicely with the style of play the Gators have favored thanks to their talented stable of running backs.

One last bit of wild overreaching before we wrap up here. Not that I would wish enrollment at Southern Methodist University on anyone, but they have a pretty glaring need at quarterback (among many, many other positions). The Mustangs are currently 0-8, have failed to score more than six points in five contests this year, and their starting quarterback boasts one of the worst QBRs among qualifying passers in college football in 2014. Surely Collier could be better than that, should he decide to let his gaze stray a little further South.

While it is almost certain that none of these hypotheticals will ever become a reality, it never hurts to take a peek at the rest of the college landscape and see who might be in the market for a talented and under-utilized quarterback. Here's a prediction that's far less ridiculous than any offered above: either Jones or Collier will be absent from Ohio State's roster come opening day next season.