Urban Meyer wisely changes tune on future of Ohio State QB position

Urban Meyer knows you have eyes. He knows what those eyes see every Saturday. And he knows that pulling wool over those eyes isn't a wise move.

Meyer knows that what he said five weeks ago -- that Braxton Miller will be Ohio State's starting quarterback when he returns to the field in 2015 -- no longer has credibility. J.T. Barrett's emergence in relief of the injured Miller has changed the discussion. To suggest otherwise would come off as both stubborn and insulting.

Those qualities haven't stopped coaches before.

Some coaches would stick to their original statement even if Barrett leads Ohio State to a Big Ten championship -- something Miller, despite more individual accolades than any Big Ten player in history, has never done -- and possibly a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. They would chalk it up to player protection, loyalty or some other half-baked reason that avoids reality.

Meyer's change of tune Monday about the future of Ohio State's quarterback position is not only fair to the fans but also to the two players involved.

"Competition brings out the best, and I'm really excited to have two really good quarterbacks next year," Meyer said Monday. "That's the plan. I think they're both excellent quarterbacks. Excellent quarterbacks. And we'll worry about that day when it comes."

This is the new reality for Ohio State, thanks to Barrett's rapid rise in his first season on the field. He is not a stand-in or a placeholder. He is the nation's second most efficient passer (172.9) and ranks fifth nationally in both touchdown passes (26) and QBR (84.2).

He's also the best quarterback in the Big Ten this season, as he showed Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. The Big Ten's star running backs might prevent Barrett from following Miller as the league's offensive player of the year, but Barrett still will collect his share of awards come December.

Meyer on Monday likened Barrett's rise to that of Alex Smith, Meyer's former quarterback at Utah, saying, "J.T.'s made incredible jumps as far as how he handles his business, and accuracy of passing last week was fantastic."

Miller said after his injury in August that he intends to return to Ohio State in 2015. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman on Monday said he "absolutely" expects Miller to follow through on his pledge and "can't even imagine" the possibility of Miller transferring. (Miller is on track to graduate and could be eligible immediately next fall if he transferred.)

If Miller returns, a quarterback competition will and should ensue. Could it be uncomfortable at times? Sure. Players as decorated as Miller rarely have to re-earn their jobs. Barrett, meanwhile, looks up to Miller.

But opening things up is better than handing the keys to Miller just because he's a great player.

Coaches often state that starters don't lose their jobs because of injuries. It's true in many cases, but mostly because the replacement can't come close to measuring up.

What makes this unique is Barrett, while a different quarterback than Miller, is doing the same extraordinary things for Ohio State's offense. He makes good decisions, gets his teammates involved and shows tremendous poise on the road.

Right now, it's hard to envision Ohio State's offense without Barrett in 2015, when the team will have national title aspirations. But if Miller outperforms Barrett, he should get the nod.

As Meyer said, there's no need to worry about the situation now. It's a long way off, and Ohio State has immediate business, like beating an improved Minnesota team on the road and winning its first Big Ten title since 2009.

But by publicly acknowledging the obvious, Meyer sends a clear, truthful message to his team and the fans about what should be one of the nation's top offseason storylines.