Between the questions of when Braxton Miller will be cleared to throw a football again and what's the next chance for Cardale Jones to throw out the first pitch someplace, J.T. Barrett has been lost in the conversation regarding the competition for starting quarterback at Ohio State.
One reason is because Barrett prefers it that way. He has declined requests for an interview in recent weeks as the Buckeyes go through summer conditioning work heading toward preseason camp in August.
But it would be folly to interpret Barrett's approach as deference to his competitors for the starting job. In that quest is the man he replaced, Miller, whose dislocated shoulder in August shoved Barrett into the driver's seat, and the man who replaced him, Jones, who took over after Barrett suffered a broken ankle against Michigan and proceeded to lead the Buckeyes to the national championship.
"I'm sure J.T. will handle the situation just like he has handled competitive situations in the past," said James Garfield, his former coach at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas. "J.T. understands the dynamics of competition. He also understands that this actually is going to make their team better, the three of them competing, since their level of play is going to grow because of it."
Like Miller, Barrett will return from an injury that required surgery. He was well enough to take part in some drills in spring practice and is said to be taking part fully in the offseason work.
"I still think he is about 90 percent; he might say he's at 100, but as a parent I think he still has some more work to do," Barrett's father, Joe, said. "But he said he is feeling well and ready to compete as usual. His threshold for pain is like his mom's, though, so I can't gauge it."
Joe Barrett chuckled, just as he did when observers began spinning forecasts of woe once Miller, a Heisman Trophy front-runner heading into the 2014 season, went down and was replaced by Barrett, then an unknown redshirt freshman.
After some tentative early steps, including a loss to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season, Barrett and the offense as a whole started rolling as the Buckeyes leaped back into the conversation for the first College Football Playoff. Along the way, he set one Big Ten record (touchdowns responsible for, with 45), and set or tied 17 school records, including season records for touchdown passes (34) and total offense (3,772 yards).
He finished fifth in the Heisman voting, the same spot where Miller had finished the year before.
"Once he started seeing things, that mind of his -- he has a beautiful mind, and he starts calculating, and everything falls into place," Joe Barrett said. "One of the things I really give the young man credit for is his preparation, his study of the game. He realized he had to let a lot of things go (outside of his schoolwork and football) in order to compete at that level. It really worked out."
Now comes the competition to regain the job. Garfield stays in touch -- J.T. visited with him over spring break, Garfield said -- and they often speak by phone.
"I can tell in his voice that he's ready, and believes that the other two are ready," Garfield said. "He is really excited because he knows that in life you have to compete at a really high level to get out of it what you seek. His mindset is that he's ready to go."
Embracing competition is something Joe Barrett preached to his son from the start, seeing it first play out publicly when J.T. headed into the seventh grade at junior high.
"The kid he was going against, he had an arm like Cardale," Joe Barrett said. "I was gone at that point because of work, so I had people telling me, 'This kid is big and he's athletic. He can really throw that ball.' And I was like, 'OK. All right. Let's see how everything works itself out.'
"I told J.T., 'Treat it like you do everything else. Don't worry about what he can do. Just worry about what you can do.' The competition didn't last too long, because just like what people can see from him up there at Ohio State now, J.T. was very accurate as a passer and very mental in his approach."
He expects the same thing from his son this time around. But Joe Barrett also offered an interesting take on the pending competition.
"Of course I would love to see my kid start, but for me it always goes back to who was first," he said. "If Braxton hadn't gotten hurt, I would still be waiting for my baby to get the chance to play. I was thankful J.T. got that chance ... and we were all blessed that he was ready to compete, but like I have told everybody, I don't want to see my kid take a position because of the misfortune of someone else," he said.
"In other words, Braxton should get that position back, then everybody else should go try to take it from him."
This article was written by Tim May from The Columbus Dispatch and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.