Joe Burrow Taking Steps to Understand How Important Backup Quarterback Position is at Ohio State

By Eric Seger on August 11, 2016 at 2:02 pm
It is important for Ohio State to have a backup who is ready at all times.

Joe Burrow remembers what it felt like, walking off the practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center finally not questioning whether or not he could make it as an Ohio State quarterback.

"It was the second scrimmage, no media was out there but that was a day I threw three or four touchdowns," Burrow said Thursday. "That was the day when I knew I could play here and play at a high level."

Burrow showed out at Ohio State's spring game in April, throwing for three touchdowns and leading the Gray to a 28-17 victory in the program's annual scrimmage. He solidified himself as the backup to J.T. Barrett, though he is in a daily battle with true freshman Dwayne Haskins to get the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Burrow is the definite leader, though, but whoever earns the job at the end of training camp knows this: Ohio State's recent history of injuries at the position puts the onus on the backup more than other positions.

"It’s not really a conversation. We all just know we have to be ready," Burrow said. "It’s the backup’s job to know to be ready for anything. If I’m not ready then I’m not doing my job."

That is the job of every understudy on a football team regardless their position, but Ohio State's string of players getting hurt at quarterback is long. Since Urban Meyer arrived in 2012 and installed his power-spread attack — in which the quarterback must be a viable run threat — every starter except for Cardale Jones missed time due to injury. And Jones only started three games in 2014 and eight last year as he and Barrett split time.

An ambulance carted Braxton Miller off the field in 2012, then shoulder injuries wrecked any chances he had at playing quarterback ever again in between the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Barrett stepped in, only to break his ankle in the 2014 regular season finale against Michigan.

But Ohio State kept winning because Tom Herman and Meyer worked magic with first Barrett and then Jones. It eventually resulted in a national championship.

As it stands after five days of fall camp, the guy next in line is Burrow.

"It's definitely important," Barrett said Thursday. "I think when it comes to backup positions, you've got to make sure you know who the backup quarterback is just in case in any game something happens to me serious or my helmet comes off or my shoelace is undone. All of those little things."

“From all the way back a long time ago to Braxton Miller, the other guys that have played quarterback here. You've gotta be the best quarterback in the country.”– Tim Beck

Added Beck: "Expectations here are always to be the best, no matter who's playing. From all the way back a long time ago to Braxton Miller, the other guys that have played quarterback here. You've gotta be the best quarterback in the country."

Barrett experienced it first hand. Miller went down for the season with his second shoulder injury 10 days before Ohio State played Navy in its season opener.

"I think by the end of camp I think our coaches are going to be ready in case that does happen," Barrett said. "But right now I don't think anybody is ready for that game rep as far as anybody on offense or defense because it's Day 5."

Ohio State's entire team is young except for a few positions, one of them being at quarterback. The two guys set to be behind Barrett on the depth chart have never taken a snap in a college game before. The strain on the position is due to Stephen Collier's knee injury, so now Burrow and Haskins have to prepare themselves.

And even though they won't see meaningful snaps in 2016 unless Barrett goes down with injury or misses a game for whatever reason, each has to focus on his own game each day in practice.

"That's something that Coach Beck already told them," Barrett said. "Keep on progressing and getting better, just try to make sure they don't stay stagnant in their development."

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