Looking back at the past 15 years, the Ohio State football program fielded a string of incredibly athletic and highly talented quarterbacks — and then there is Craig Krenzel.
Krenzel was certainly a very good quarterback for the Buckeyes, but it’s easy to call him the fourth-best quarterback to play for OSU since the turn of the century. While he is one of the smartest players ever to don the Scarlet and Gray, Krenzel will never be grouped together with Troy Smith as an all-time great, or Terrelle Pryor as an otherworldly athlete.
Even as a decorated player at Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights, Mich., it’s unlikely anyone expected Krenzel to step on the field at OSU and leave with the massive success he had.
In his best season, Krenzel never threw more than 15 touchdowns or more than 2,110 yards, and he never rushed for more than 368 yards=. He didn’t win a Heisman Trophy like Smith and he didn’t win back-to-back Chicago Tribune Big Ten MVP awards like current senior Braxton Miller.
But he did something else none of them did: win a National Championship.
After completing just five passes on nine attempts as a freshman in 2000, Krenzel found himself thrust into a starting role as a sophomore when starter Steve Bellisari was suspended after being arrested for drunk driving. Krenzel’s first start came against then-No. 11 Michigan, when the Buckeyes were unranked, and he led the team to a 26-20 victory on Nov. 24, 2001.
It wasn’t pretty — Krenzel threw for just 118 yards and no touchdowns with one interception — but he got the job done. He then went on to lead the Buckeyes to an undefeated 14-0 record in 2002, capped off with a 31-24 double-overtime win against Miami in the BCS National Championship Game.
Krenzel went on to play six games for the Chicago Bears, including five starts, during the 2004 NFL season. He is now a motivational speaker and part-time commentator on WBNS 97.1 The Fan in Columbus.
While it’s unknown where his career will go, a certain redshirt-freshman quarterback for the 2014 Buckeyes is seeing his time as a starter begin similarly to how Krenzel’s did.
J.T. Barrett will certainly have bigger shoes to fill than Krenzel did after Miller went down with a torn labrum in fall camp, but he’s still an untested player filling in for a team that had championship aspirations.
Just like Krenzel, Barrett won’t overwhelm you with his athleticism, but he has the ability to take off and run if that’s what the play needs. He’s even been dubbed “the distributor” by teammates, which is more or less the only thing Krenzel was really asked to do. Both have been praised for their leadership ability, and both were thrust into the starting lineup before their time had truly come.
Barrett even wears Krenzel’s old No. 16.
While there’s no telling where Barrett’s career will end up — and it could very well never live up to the success Krenzel had — the parallels are undeniable as he starts to build his legacy.
While Krenzel’s first true test came against archrival Michigan, Barrett’s first start is set to come against Navy Saturday in Baltimore. But he’ll certainly be hoping for the same result the former Buckeye signal caller had back in November 2001.