COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The loaded quarterback competition hasn't really even started yet at Ohio State, and already the strain is starting to show on coach Urban Meyer.
Even with J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller still limited by injuries early in spring practice, leaving Cardale Jones as the only healthy option, Meyer is beginning to look ahead. And he doesn't seem particularly excited about the fact he'll have to leave two talented options on the sideline.
"That's the only thing that's starting to eat away at me a little bit," Meyer said Tuesday. "It didn't for a while because you're just so busy. But now that I'm seeing what I'm seeing, I have such great respect for all three guys."
Meyer has been watching them all closely through three practices, and while each of the decorated candidates is participating at a different level in workouts, the interactions between them and their relationships with each other appear to be adding to Meyer's difficulty in eventually establishing a pecking order.
After returning from spring break for a practice Tuesday morning, Meyer cited a conversation between Miller and Barrett on the field and Miller going out of his way to tap Jones on the helmet and compliment him after a play as just two examples of the close-knit group of quarterbacks.
Miller, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during 2014 preseason camp, isn't expected to resume throwing at full strength until the summer. After going through warmups with the Buckeyes when camp opened, Meyer said the training staff "pulled back on him a little bit" as a precaution.
Barrett is further along in his recovery from a fractured ankle, and he is now throwing in every "mini-field and 7-on-7" situation for the reigning national champions.
For now, that leaves Jones as the first-team option by default, but eventually he will have company and Meyer will have to make a decision.
"Everything is positive," Meyer said. "Talent, quality people, value to the program, investment in the program? Check, check, check, check.
"The only negative is two people are going to have to watch."
Somewhere down the road, Meyer also will have to break that news to them, a realization he already is coming to terms with before the battle really even begins.