By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – It lacked the contentiousness of a legal deposition, but Urban Meyer’s weekly press conference on Monday contained the same kind of carefully worded answers whenever the subject of who will be Ohio State’s starting quarterback next Monday night at Virginia Tech was raised.
And it came up quite frequently. Fourteen of the 23 questions directed at Meyer were about OSU’s still undecided quarterback competition between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
Meyer’s bottom-line answer was the same one he has used all summer.
“We’ll announce the starter when the first guy takes the snap. It’s still very close. Both guys are performing very well,” Meyer said.
Barrett and Jones both have strong cases why they should be the starter. After a slow start, Barrett became the best quarterback in the Big Ten last fall when he threw for an Ohio State-record 34 touchdowns as a replacement for the injured Braxton Miller.
Then, after Barrett suffered a broken ankle in the Michigan game, the infrequently used Jones was the quarterback when Ohio State won the Big Ten championship game, the Sugar Bowl and the national championship game.
Meyer said it is possible both quarterbacks could play against Virginia Tech. “I don’t know yet. We’ve still got time to decide. I think a lot of it is going to be in-game, how’s it going, and do we need a change.”
He also said the quarterback depth chart of who is No. 1 and who is No. 2 could change during the season.
“That is the same with the other positions as well. You have to show up every day and compete,” Meyer said. “I imagine if one of them was way ahead I probably would announce it, but they’re not.”
When Ohio State announced six captains for this season last week, Barrett was one of the six and Jones was not. But Meyer said this should not be interpreted as a sign Barrett is ahead in the race to be the starter.
“It means he’s a captain. It doesn’t mean he’s going to necessarily take the first snap,” he said.
Safety Tyvis Powell, a good friend of both quarterbacks, says the competition hasn’t turned tense.
“The last couple days my apartment has been the hangout spot for both J.T. and Cardale. They’ve just been the same people they’ve been all summer. They still play the game (Madden NFL) together, everybody is calm. Nobody really talks about the quarterback competition,” Powell said.
“They both rotate with the ones (first-team offense). They don’t even know. I was like, ‘Do y’all even know? And they were like, ‘No, I guess whoever jogs out there with the ones will be the starter.’ ”
Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said he will have some input on who will be the starter but the final decision will belong to Meyer. He expects that decision to be revealed internally to the team by the end of the week.
“We will have discussions about why is this the guy we need to go with and what does he bring to the table a little bit more that is going to help this team win more games. I would anticipate that decision coming at the end of the week,” Warinner said. “Obviously, I will be involved in that decision but Coach will have the final say.”
— RECEIVER DEPTH A QUESTION: Last week’s injury to wide receiver Noah Brown on top of one-game suspensions for Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith, left Ohio State even more depleted at that position for its opener.
“Depth at receiver is a concern for this game. Talent isn’t,” Meyer said. “You have Mike Thomas, you have Curtis Samuel, you have Braxton Miller, you have Johnnie Dixon, you have Parris Campbell, you have Terry McLaurin, I might be forgetting one. Those are all guys that can play at this level and potentially some of them at the next level. I think Nick Vannett and obviously Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) are a big part of this game plan as well.”
—MILLER UPDATE: Braxton Miller is adapting well to playing wide receiver, Warinner said. “He’s all over the place. He’s just an athlete out there. Braxton has looked good and is growing into that position and had a great attitude about learning it.”
—STRONG IN OPENERS: Ohio State is 34-2 in its last 36 season openers, with the losses coming against Alabama in 1986 and Miami (Fla.) in 1999. Both those games were in the Kickoff Classic. Meyer is 15-0 in openers as a head coach.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.