Before entering its regular season opener against Navy, the Ohio State football team listed seven freshmen and redshirt-freshmen as either starters or co-starters on its depth chart.
Heading into the second game of the year, coach Urban Meyer said some of those players are no longer considered newcomers, especially along the offensive line that replaced four of five starters from last season.
“They are no longer rookies, they are veteran players now,” Meyer said Wednesday.
While the offensive line unit may be the most inexperienced on the team, the quarterback position is always the most scrutinized and redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett is no exception.
The Wichita Falls, Texas, native completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards and two scores to go along with one interception in his first collegiate game against Navy Aug. 30.
Barrett is now set to make his first start at home against a defense that is known for being one of the best in the country, Meyer said.
“We got a very good opponent, coach (Frank Beamer) I’ve known for a long time. First time I’ve ever played against him,” Meyer said. “But they are what they are. After not really studying, we studied a little bit in the summer and offseason. And one of the top five defenses in America. Really good defensive coach.”
While Beamer is the Hokies’ head man, defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is in his 28th year at Virginia Tech and 20th as defensive coordinator, had his Hokie defense finish fourth in the country in total defense in 2013.
The Hokies held then-defending national champion Alabama to just 206 total yards in the first game of 2013. Despite outgaining the Crimson Tide by six total yards, Virginia Tech lost the game, 35-10.
The Buckeyes managed just six points in the first half against Navy last week before scoring 28 points in the second half to pull away with a 34-17 win, something Meyer said his offense needs to correct.
“The second half, we played pretty good. But pretty good is not what we expect,” Meyer said Monday. “You play pretty good this week, you won’t win that game.”
In order to take down the Hokies, the Buckeyes could be opening up their playbook a bit more Saturday, which Meyer said he thinks young quarterback Barrett can handle.
“We’ll expand a little bit,” Meyer said. “We will keep giving him more and more. We went into a very vanilla (offense) last week.”
Senior wide receiver Devin Smith said he is confident the OSU offense will be able to pull it all together against the Hokies.
“I think we are going to get into it very quick,” Smith said. “J.T. is a smart kid, he knows where to put the ball. Us skill players, as soon as we touch the ball, we make stuff happen so I feel like it is just a matter of time to find ourselves and really know what we can do.”
Wide receivers coach Zach Smith said he, too, expects the young players and the offense to greatly improve this week.
“A lot of times, a team’s greatest improvement is from game one to game two,” Zach Smith said Monday. “Being as young as we are in some areas and inexperienced as we are in some areas, this is a huge week for us.”
The Buckeyes and Hokies are scheduled to kick off at Ohio Stadium on Saturday at 8 p.m.