Last year, Urban Meyer had quite an enviable quarterback conundrum on his hands. He had three talented, experienced options at quarterback, any one of which seemed capable of leading Ohio State to national-championship contention.
This year? Well, let's just say there's a much, much smaller margin for error — and it just got smaller.
J.T. Barrett will undoubtedly be the starter this season, something Meyer didn't settle on until the middle of last season. But behind Barrett things just got much trickier, as backup Stephen Collier will reportedly miss the upcoming season after tearing his ACL.
Meyer's plethora of options is gone, as both Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller have moved on to the NFL. Barrett, meanwhile, looks capable of being one of the best quarterbacks in college football, as he was two seasons ago, when he finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. And with a full season at his disposal — Meyer waffled between Jones and Barrett for much of last season — the redshirt junior appears primed for a massive campaign.
But he'll have to stay on the field or the Buckeyes' hopes might be doomed.
Two years ago, Barrett played a remarkable regular season but suffered an ankle injury in the season finale, requiring Jones to come in and surprisingly lead the march to a national championship in three postseason starts. Last year, Jones started several games before Meyer tabbed Barrett, but Barrett still missed a game after being named starter due to suspension.
Backup quarterbacks have proven especially valuable to the Buckeyes in the past three seasons under Meyer. Last year there was the safety net of Barrett when Jones struggled. The year before, both Barrett and Jones impressed when thrust into starting duty because of injuries to Miller and Barrett, respectively. And the year prior, Kenny Guiton was sensational in limited action as Miller's backup, throwing 14 touchdown passes.
Collier was expected to battle redshirt freshman Joe Burrow for the gig backing up Barrett, but he's obviously out of the mix now, leaving Burrow as the only other scholarship player on the quarterback depth chart behind Barrett. Four-star quarterback recruit Dwayne Haskins will join the team as an incoming freshman this summer. And perhaps redshirt freshman Torrance Gibson could move back to quarterback. Gibson was a five-star quarterback recruit last year before the log jam at the position forced a move to wide receiver. But he's still listed as a "quarterback/wide receiver" on Ohio State's roster, so a switch back could be possible.
None of those guys have played a down of college football before, but Burrow and Gibson both have the same level of experience and redshirt-freshman designation that Barrett had when he took over for Miller and led the Buckeyes during the 2014 title-winning season.