COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's no sense wasting any energy worrying about a position battle that hasn't even started yet, and Ed Warinner has more than enough patience to wait.
Before diving into the quarterback race, the new Ohio State offensive coordinator has plenty to keep him busy elsewhere, starting with a competition that certainly won't receive as much attention but could be just as crucial to the Buckeyes' national-title defense in the fall.
Regardless of who winds up taking the snaps, protecting that guy and continuing to pound open holes for the running game is going to once again be a top priority. And with four returning first-team blockers up front, the options at right tackle are under Warinner's microscope during spring camp, with Chase Farris and Jamarco Jones pushing for the last open spot.
"[Farris] hit a stride where we thought he was really playing good by the middle, toward the end of the season," Warinner said Thursday. "But you’ve got a starting lineup, we’re on a roll, Darryl Baldwin is playing his butt off, so we spot-played him here and there but didn’t really shake up the rotation. I mean, he was ready to be a starter toward the end of last year, and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be able to take that position over.
"But Jamarco Jones is not by any means just going to let him have it. It’s just a difference in age and where they’re at -- fifth-year guy versus second-year guy."
If that winds up being the difference between the two, Farris would be in for the gig and could potentially become the latest in a string of one-year wonders for the Buckeyes at right tackle. Reid Fragel, Taylor Decker and Baldwin all held down that position without much prior experience and thrived under Warinner for a season before moving on, either due to graduation or by earning a promotion to the left side, as was the case with Decker.
For the moment, Warinner is getting no shortage of opportunities to evaluate both candidates, with the Buckeyes resting some of their veterans. During one period open to the media during practice on Thursday, Jones lined up at left tackle with the first-team offense with Farris bookending him on the right, providing a relatively even playing field for the top contenders for the job.
That doesn't necessarily mean Warinner will be able to reach a conclusion any faster than he and the coaching staff might with their quarterbacks. But at least their options all are on level ground in spring, ensuring one key battle already is underway.
Barrett bouncing back: Urban Meyer suggested earlier in the week that J.T. Barrett's recovery from his fractured ankle might be ahead of schedule, and the redshirt sophomore certainly turned some heads with his performance in drills open to the media. Barrett and Cardale Jones took turns delivering passes that showed off what they do best, whether it was pinpoint accuracy from the former or rockets out of the right hand of the latter. Barrett has been able to jump back into mini-field and seven-on-seven reps early in camp, and he looked as sharp as ever delivering the football on Thursday.
Percy position: Maybe it's just a spring tradition now, but another multipurpose tailback is getting reps with the wide receivers and sparking conversation about the famous Pivot position in Meyer's offense. Last year it was Dontre Wilson; this year appears to belong to Curtis Samuel. The rising sophomore shined in his opportunities in the backfield behind Ezekiel Elliott last year, and it was something of a surprise to see him catching passes instead of taking handoffs with the starter and potential Heisman Trophy candidate currently on the shelf after wrist surgery. But the Buckeyes have left no doubt they will find ways to use all of the talent on hand, and Samuel isn't short on that.
Man in the middle: Living up to the hype might have been impossible given the abundance of chatter that swirled around Raekwon McMillan, but the middle linebacker certainly showed off his potential during his limited opportunities to play behind Curtis Grant last fall. Now it's up to the rising sophomore to become a leader and fill the shoes of his mentor on a full-time basis, and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is pushing him as much as possible to embrace that role and fight through any uncomfortable moments. Having Darron Lee and Joshua Perry returning at linebacker is invaluable in the process, but McMillan has the makings of a star and the Buckeyes are trying to tap into that as quickly as possible.