J.T. Barrett misses Cardale Jones, but not Ohio State's QB controversy

J.T. Barrett can lead Buckeyes to Big Ten crown (1:08)

Butch Davis thinks J.T. Barrett makes Ohio State a sleeper to win the Big Ten. (1:08)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The endless scrutiny, the back-and-forth competition and the controversy that swirled around Ohio State's quarterback battle in 2015 aren't going to be missed.

But as for the other half of the two-man derby himself? That's a different story for J.T. Barrett.

The redshirt junior is unquestionably the Buckeyes' leader and clear-cut starter behind center as training camp opens, which is a far cry from the scenario Barrett faced a year ago when he and Cardale Jones reported for a circus that dragged nearly into November. And while the benefits -- both personally for Barrett and collectively for Ohio State -- are pretty straightforward, that shouldn't be confused with relief now that Jones is gone.

"It's different because my boy '12' ain't here," Barrett said. "As far as the way the battle or the quarterback competition went, this is a little different. But I'm still just trying to find a way to get better each day. Especially with fundamentals, make sure that when you start these first couple days you get back in the groove of things and find some things that you can work on each and every day to keep on getting better. That part didn't change.

"But I miss my boy 12. ... I'm probably going to call him, FaceTime him tonight to see what he's up to."

Barrett already had a good idea what was going on with his buddy as he goes through his first NFL training camp; they had just chatted a few days earlier about the progress Jones was making as a Buffalo Bills rookie. But the fact that the two remain so close, even after all they went through a year ago, reinforces what Ohio State has long maintained about its tight-knit room of quarterbacks and the value of strong relationships within that room.

The Buckeyes may have come up short of defending their national championship a season ago, and just about everybody involved has at some point acknowledged that the competition could have been handled better, from an on-field perspective. Away from the action, though, it's clear that the real lesson for the Buckeyes came from the year before, when they needed three quarterbacks to accept roles, get along, stick around and stay ready and eventually play on the way to the crown in 2014.

So even if Barrett isn't facing any direct heat from Joe Burrow or true freshman Dwayne Haskins for first-team reps this month, there still needs to be competition at the position for the team to thrive. And there's also some Jones-like qualities that Barrett might actually need to replace.

"Cardale, we all know he was a character," Barrett said. "I do miss him just because our room is not as lively. ... It was something in our unit room that would help everybody relax. He'd always have something crazy to say."

"I knew he had my back," Barrett added. "And I think when you compete against somebody ... it's almost like you don't like them or things like that. Me and Cardale, it wasn't like that. If he did something, I was happy for him. And if he needed help with something, whether it was me or him, we helped each other out. I don't think it was a common thing, and I think it was hard for people to realize that."

That dynamic hasn't changed now that the two are in separate training camps, although it now takes a phone call if the former teammates need to bounce anything off each other. But as far as Barrett's situation in terms of development, practice reps and opportunity to lead, this August is the polar opposite of the one he went through last year.

Now he can focus on giving tips to a young group of wide receivers on their timing and spacing. Instead of trying to force plays in practice to make a positive impression, Barrett can comfortably work on taking a deeper drop as part of his focus on improved mechanics without necessarily stressing over getting immediate results. And while Ohio State never gave any suggestion the roster was divided during the controversy a year ago, if the quarterback is supposed to be the voice of the locker room, there's definitely only one of them in that job now.

"A lot of times people ask me, 'Are you and Cardale really friends?' Yes," Barrett said. "It was weird because that was all I knew. I really didn't compete for a position before, I guess.

"That was my guy. I think that's a life relationship I'm going to have."

For now, that means Barrett misses his friend.

But a quarterback controversy? Ohio State surely wasn't sad to see it go.