Finally, J.T. Barrett can be Urban Meyer's guy
Rewind to 11 months ago.
J.T. Barrett was one of three guys competing for a starting quarterback job after a redshirt freshman season in which he finished fifth in the Heisman voting. He spent the entire offseason trying to get back to the level he was at before his ankle injury just to earn an opportunity to start.
Ultimately, he didn’t. Urban Meyer went with Cardale Jones because Barrett hadn’t won his job back. For the second straight year, Barrett was second on the depth chart in the season opener. And for the second straight year, Barrett had to prove he belonged just to get snaps in Ohio State’s loaded offense.
When he finally did win the job back, he blew his chance to truly take the reins with his OVI citation. Sure, Barrett kept his captaincy and was a major reason the Buckeyes finally exploded against Michigan and Notre Dame.
But with all the veteran talent around him, the offense didn’t run through Barrett. He wasn’t the heart and soul of that team. Nine Buckeye underclassmen — six of whom came from Barrett’s 2013 recruiting class — declared for the NFL draft. With that, only Billy Price, Pat Elflein and Barrett are back on offense.
That means one obvious thing; Barrett will finally get the keys to Meyer’s Ferrari in 2016.
Recent history suggests that’s big for Barrett, who will enter his first offseason as the undisputed starting quarterback. But really, it’ll be his third season as the Buckeye signal-caller. Under Meyer, that usually means a monster season is on the way.
Meyer’s success with veteran quarterbacks dates all the way back to his days at Bowling Green. With second-year starter Josh Harris, Bowling Green had the nation’s third-ranked offense. The dual-threat signal-caller racked up 42 total touchdowns under Meyer’s tutelage.
At Utah, Alex Smith’s second year with Meyer yielded a major improvement. He went from 20 total touchdowns as a first-year starter to 42 in his second season, which resulted in a top-three offense and a No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft.
In Chris Leak’s second season starting for Meyer, he led Florida to a national title. In Tim Tebow’s second year starting for Meyer, he did the same.
When Meyer got to Columbus, that trend continued. Braxton Miller’s second season starting for Meyer produced the Buckeyes’ best offense in school history and saw him earn his second straight B1G Offensive Player of the Year honor.
The numbers don’t lie. When Meyer has a feel for his quarterbacks, they thrive.
The 2015 season wasn’t like that. The two-quarterback system didn’t work like it did at Florida. We found out that Barrett isn’t the type of guy that can be inserted into games at random spots. In his defense, most guys aren’t.
Barrett was far more effective when he knew his role and he got a week with the first-team offense. For the first time, he’ll get an entire offseason like that. And with all of the young faces in Columbus, he’ll need it.
Instead of having veterans like Ezekiel Elliott, Jalin Marshall and Mike Thomas, Barrett will rely on guys like Johnnie Dixon, Torrance Gibson and Mike Weber. The incoming group of playmakers has plenty of talent, but there will still likely be trials and tribulations with this group, as well.
It’ll be Barrett’s job to help Ohio State weather the storm better than it did in 2015. Despite the 12-win season, we all saw how different the team looked in the final two games. It played like a team that didn’t have the pressure of a national title weighing on it.
Nobody will pick the Buckeyes to win it all in 2016. Sure, they’ll be a top-10 team to start the season and there’s always pressure to win in Columbus, but it’ll have a much different feel than 2015 did.
The 2015 team was supposed to be a year away, especially after Miller went down. But Barrett thrived with a bunch of first-year starters that were eager to get Ohio State back in the national title picture.
In 2016, the task will be the same for Barrett. And with another year of Meyer’s guidance under his belt, he’ll be up for it.