When J.T. Barrett became the next in the line of Ohio State starting quarterbacks, he was little more than an unknown.
Five weeks and three starts later, the redshirt-freshman’s teammates know exactly who they have leading the team.
Junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker called Barrett a “football-savvy guy” and praised his intelligence before delving into the quarterback’s qualities as a leader.
“The way he portrays himself out there is that he’s confident in himself,” Decker said. “If he’s confident in himself, then we’re confident in him.”
Barrett, a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, instilled that confidence in his teammates partially by leading the Buckeyes to second-half comebacks in the first two games of the season.
One of those comebacks resulted in a win when OSU beat Navy, 34-17, on Aug. 30 in Baltimore, while the other ended with Barrett being sacked six times in the second half. Even as he spent extended time on the Ohio Stadium turf, Decker said he never would have known what was happening on the field based off of the quarterback’s sideline composure.
“He’s a good leader and he stays calm,” Decker said. “He was taking some hits and on the sideline, you wouldn’t even know it the way he was handling himself.”
That game — a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in the Buckeyes’ home opener — might have served as a wake-up call for some, or simple motivation for others.
Senior wide receiver Evan Spencer said the loss sparked Barrett to work even harder, and the improvement showed on the field the following week against Kent State.
“I think that that struggle (against Virginia Tech) for him helped him get better as a player,” Spencer said.
Against Kent State, Barrett threw for 312 yards — the first official 300-yard passing performance by an OSU quarterback since Troy Smith did it in 2006 — and tied a school record with six touchdown passes. While injured senior quarterback Braxton Miller has his named peppered throughout the OSU record books, those are two numbers he has yet to hit as a Buckeye.
Spencer said Barrett’s record-setting game — especially coming off a loss — did wonders in boosting his confidence heading into OSU’s week off.
“In practice so far (last) week, you can tell he’s launching the ball a little bit better, he’s more confident in everything he’s doing,” Spencer said. “And that’s really come to fruition this week.”
Win or lose, OSU coach Urban Meyer said Barrett’s understanding of how to improve from week to week — or even day to day — sets him apart from other players he has coached during his career.
“He’s been raised that way, it’s interesting, we get all kinds,” Meyer said Wednesday. “You can imagine over 20 years, 28 years of coaching, you get kids that … don’t understand what you said, the process of growing up.”
Meyer said Barrett’s ability to grasp that idea has helped him take steps forward early this season, and makes him enjoyable to coach.
“He understands every day is a chance to get better,” Meyer said. “That’s the best part about coaching him. He attacks today like … he’s a rookie.”
Barrett’s next start is set to come Saturday when the Buckeyes are scheduled to host Cincinnati at 6 p.m.