When the Ohio State football team took the field to open the season, Urban Meyer didn’t know what to expect from his quarterback.
But five weeks and four Big Ten awards later, the OSU coach said he has a better idea of what redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett’s development has been like.
“J.T. continues to be a very good distributor, completing a high percentage of his balls, and really we’re giving him more and more responsibility about getting us in the right play, which is a big part of what the quarterback’s expected to do,” Meyer said after OSU’s 50-28 win against Cincinnati on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Meyer said his comfort level with Barrett under center is “night and day” from what it was when the Buckeyes took the field against Navy on Aug. 30, but a day earlier, he had made it clear Barrett’s play hasn’t earned him a permanent spot.
Senior quarterback Braxton Miller — who is out for the season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder — is expected to return to the Buckeyes as a fifth-year senior in 2015. And Meyer put any potential talk of a quarterback controversy to rest with one simple phrase: “Braxton is our quarterback.”
“To be fair to Braxton, Big Ten Player of the Year,” Meyer said Monday. “Good to know we’ve got both of them.”
But Meyer isn’t dismissing Barrett’s work. Moments before saying he is committed to Miller as the Buckeyes’ quarterback, Meyer stressed the confidence he has in Barrett this season.
“I love J.T., he’s fun to coach,” Meyer said. “He’s a guy that has a great demeanor on the sideline. He’s a student of the game.”
Meyer hasn’t been the only person to praise Barrett’s play.
Sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson — who was part of the same recruiting class as Barrett coming out of high school — said the young quarterback is “playing very well” so far this season.
“I always knew he had it in him because he’s such a great leader,” Wilson said after the win against the Bearcats. “He works really hard, and now, he’s just perfecting his craft.”
On top of receiving a total of three Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards and one Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award, Barrett has reaped praise from teammates and the coaching staff alike, along with some constructive criticism.
After that Cincinnati game — in which Barrett gained 409 yards of total offense, good for the second-best output in school history — Meyer said the Wichita Falls, Texas, native still has room for improvement as a field general that was noticeable on the field. The third-year OSU coach said Barrett needs to do a better job communication in order to prevent penatlies from the offensive line.
Meyer said the line was having trouble hearing Barrett’s cadence, which led to multiple false starts and therefore lost yardage against Cincinnati.
“I kept screaming ‘Peyton Manning’ at him, because when I study or just get to watch games, Peyton Manning’s still as good as I’ve ever seen as far as taking control,” Meyer said after the game. “And (Barrett’s) not there yet, so (he needs to) take control of the offense.”
Despite the praise and criticism, as well as Meyer’s stated commitment to Miller, Barrett is still set to have the rest of the season to prove his merit as OSU’s starting quarterback.
The Buckeyes’ next game is scheduled for Saturday against Maryland in College Park, Md at Byrd Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.