March 12, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) So far, at least, there is harmony and warm feelings surrounding the starting quarterback job at Ohio State. Of course, the defending national champion Buckeyes are still six months away from their season opener.

''They love each other. They cheer for each other, they help coach each other,'' new quarterbacks coach Tim Beck said of the talented top three candidates for the job. ''It's a great group of guys.''

Still, everyone knows this could be a blueprint for team discord with three elite and proven starters at the position. Two will be disappointed.

Yet Cardale Jones and the injured J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller remain good friends, rooting for each other and - at least for now - accepting of the fact that only one of them will take the first snap in the 2015 season opener.

''Braxton and Cardale help me and I try and do my best to help them,'' said Barrett, fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting last year and the first-team QB on the All-Big Ten team. ''We feed off one another. If somebody does well, we cheer them on. There's not any bad blood at all. We're friends out here and we always try to help each other get better. Even off the field, we're buddies.''

Jones was relatively unknown a year ago as a perennial backup for most of his first three years at Ohio State. He was handed the job when Barrett broke his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan. But he played almost flawlessly in leading the Buckeyes to a 59-0 laugher over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, a 42-35 upset of top-ranked Alabama in the national semifinals and a 42-20 rout of Oregon in the CFP championship game.

Miller is a two-time Big Ten player of the year and three-year starter. Like Barrett, he's rehabbing from an injury - he's had two shoulder surgeries over the last 14 months. Both Barrett and Miller are expected to be 100 percent by the time the Buckeyes reconvene for fall practice in August.

Jones, who passed on declaring for the NFL draft a few days after the title game, said the relationship has not changed between the three quarterbacks over the past few months.

''We always competed with each other,'' he said. ''It's not like, `Oh, Braxton's going to start, or J.T.'s going to start, let me just chill and not prepare like a starter or compete with them.' We always push each other.''

Head coach Urban Meyer says there is no enmity between the three competitive signal-callers. Each understands the nuts and bolts of the logjam at the position. No one anticipates any backbiting or schisms over the coming months during the ongoing battle.

''I think it's unique at that position. I've never had it like that,'' said Meyer, starting his 14th year as a head coach, his fourth season at Ohio State. ''I've had it at other positions where all of a sudden you have three or four really good receivers. But you play more than one of them at a time.''

Miller declined to speak with reporters on Thursday. But Barrett, Jones and the coaches all say they do not anticipate any of the candidates changing positions to get on the field.

During Ohio State's 15 spring practices, the healthy Jones is getting most of the first-team snaps. Barrett and Miller attend all the quarterback meetings, and stand just a few paces behind him at workouts, analyzing every nuance of each play call as if they were coming in to take the next snap.

Beck, who coached last year at Nebraska and came to the Buckeyes after the title game when Tom Herman became head coach at Houston, isn't thinking about who'll start at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7.

''We'll cross that bridge when we get to it,'' he said.

So, does he have a lot of friends sympathizing with him about the decision?

He laughed and said, ''Yeah. Everybody asks me that question.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

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