When Urban Meyer has talked this spring about the Ohio State quarterback competition — and it’s the top question each time he meets with the media — he has seemed to be torn when admitting that none of the three has broken away from the pack.

So it was again Monday after the ninth practice of 15 allowed, which includes the spring game April 14.

“I think the quarterback situation — you'd wish one would take it, but then again, you like having the day-to-day competition, which is what I'm seeing,” Meyer said of the battle among junior Joe Burrow, sophomore Dwayne Haskins Jr. and redshirt freshman Tate Martell.

“They started very poorly today, and the quarterbacks and receivers got much better as the day went on, which is encouraging.”

Meyer gave an example of how the assessment changes in the effort to find the successor to four-year starter J.T. Barrett.

“It's day-to-day. Tate had a much better day today,” Meyer said. “He's got a skill set that's a little bit JT-ish, as far as the quarterback run — he's just built for that. And he actually threw the ball well, too.

“Joe probably had the better scrimmage (Friday, the first one of the spring), but then Dwayne came back” Monday and played well.

The coach wants someone to take charge in practice, a trait of Barrett's that pushed the offense from play to play, day to day. Such a player is never a “palms-up guy” — someone who, when things aren’t going well, doesn’t look “at the coaches like this,” Meyer said, his palms up.

He said the true leaders at quarterback “just keep the group going. … We're not there. You can see the void. But at times you can see it get much better. We're much better today in practice nine than practice two or three.”

Meyer said the coaches have a clear idea what one quarterback needs to do to step away from the other two.

“Just lead the team,” he said. “And there's got to be a separation at some point, and right now there is not that separation. Just when one starts going, the other one comes up, and the other one drops a little bit. And I'm talking about the three.”

Meyer was asked facetiously why he couldn’t play all three if no clear front-runner emerges. He knew the questioner was pulling his string a little.

“If one could play receiver — people say ‘Play two at a time,’” Meyer said. “People who say that don't really know what they're talking about, because what do they play? ‘Well, just put him at receiver.’ OK, just put anybody at receiver then.”

But then he dropped a hint that Martell could be in the plans whether at quarterback or another position.

“The one thing is, Tate's got an incredible skill set,” Meyer said referring to his ability run and throw. “There is some conversation about that, because he is a gifted guy.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports