As intriguing as the pending three-man Ohio State starting quarterback competition promises to be starting next month, several Buckeyes said this week they don’t expect to see it cause a rift within the locker room.
“I don’t think it will be a distraction at all,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Competition brings the best out of everybody. Honestly, it will be good for all three of those guys to just compete. It’s going to make them all way better.”
Fifth-year senior Braxton Miller, coming back from a shoulder injury, is determined to regain his job. To do so, he will have to beat out J.T. Barrett, who stepped in for Miller last year and led the Buckeyes in record fashion to the brink of the postseason before suffering a broken right ankle, and Cardale Jones, who replaced Barrett and led the team on the 3-0 run to the first College Football Playoff title.
Just as the public has differing views on who should be the starter, other players on the team probably do, too. So could that divide the team?
“No, just because of the kind of team that we are,” senior linebacker Joshua Perry said. “If it was a different team, a different culture, maybe a different scenario, it could. But the way that we play for each other and the way that we care, it’s kind of like you’re a nameless guy when you’re out there.”
What players also know is all three have shown the ability to lead the team in a superior way. Miller was the Big Ten’s MVP in 2012 and ’13, when he finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy race. Barrett was the Big Ten’s outstanding offensive player in 2014 and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. Jones delivered unflappably in three of the most significant wins in school history.
“Those three guys … they each bring something special, but the three also have a very good relationship,” safety Vonn Bell said. “I know the battle that’s coming, they’re going to fight to the end, but they also have a lot of respect for each other. I don’t think it’s going to divide the locker room. The best man will win.”
Perry, who seems destined to be a captain this season, expects the same thing once preseason camp begins in early August.
“Those guys are going to get after it, they’re going to compete, and that’s all we ever ask for at every position, is that guys compete,” Perry said. “You hear it every time we talk about it, but they (quarterbacks) really do care a lot about each other. It’s not going to be one of those nasty competitions.
“Obviously I have a lot of faith in our coaching staff and what they can do, and they will pick the best candidate for the job. But it will be interesting going into camp to see what happens.”