Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett does not have to look over his shoulder any more. With Cardale Jones going to the NFL, Barrett is coming into the 2016 season as the starting quarterback for coordinator Tim Beck and the rest of the Buckeye offense. With Barrett as the starting quarterback and a captain for this offense, the expectations put on him do not change with the amount of change this team has gone through these past six months.
“The issue would be if it was a non-talented young team,” coach Urban Meyer said. “And that’s not the case at all. So it’s a very young team, but talented.”
With a young team with big expectations, Barrett says that talent will only get a team so far.
“Talent is there,” Barrett said. “It’s just more of the experience that’s lacking. With experience lacking, confidence may not be there.”
One of the changes coming into the 2016 season will be the consistency in quarterback play. Last season, Barrett lost the job to Jones and played sporadically throughout the season. In his 11 games last season, including five starts, he threw 93 completions for 11 touchdowns and 992 yards, while throwing four interceptions. He also ran for 727 yards and matched his rushing touchdown total from 2014 with 11.
With a new season in front of him, Meyer says that this is Barrett’s team.
“I anticipate he’ll be as good a quarterback as we’ve had,” Meyer said. “It’s his show and he knows it and he’s prepared.”
As the leader on and off the field for the offense, Barrett feels like it is his responsibility to get the young guys ready to go in all aspects of the Buckeye football life.
“I’m trying to help the young guys get them to understand how we play here at Ohio State and make sure they understand that we haven’t rebuilt in years in that isn’t going to change because they don’t have experience.”
Some of those supporting players are expected to fill big shoes. One of those is redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber. Taking over for the new Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot, Weber matched up against fifth-year senior Bri’onte Dunn in spring practices. After Dunn was dismissed from the program, the starting job became Weber’s job to lose. As a captain, Barrett has tried to be the example for Weber, as they get ready for the season.
“I workout with him quite a bit and just try to make sure he understands that the work you put in in the offseason is where you win the game,” Barrett said. “Whether it’s Sept. 17 at Oklahoma, or we’re at a place like Wisconsin, that’s not where you win the game.”
As for the guys that Barrett will be throwing to, the wide receiver class is very different as well. With the four top receivers from 2015 in the NFL, junior Curtis Samuel, redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and sixth-year senior Corey Smith will be relied upon in the passing game. Brown and Smith are returning from season-ending ACL injuries. However, Barrett mentioned Brown as his favorite target.
With a lot of young receivers with no college experience, Barrett thinks that it will take more reps to get them comfortable.
“I feel like myself I’m in a good place with some of the young receivers that we have,” Barrett said. “We’re just trying to keep on getting better.”
Despite the youth on the offense, Meyer has confidence that these players can make a name for themselves based on past experiences.
“I think 2014 was the template that everybody wants,” Meyer said. “J.T. Barrett was buried in the depth chart, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, ‘Zeke Elliott, Mike Thomas — those guys were no-names, and they became very good throughout the course of 2014.”
The pressure to succeed is all on Barrett. He knows that come September 3rd, all eyes will be on him.
“Playing quarterback at Ohio State has a lot of great expectations and a lot of responsibility but I don’t take for granted… you don’t really enjoy it until it’s over. Right now it’s all work and all ball. I enjoy the grind.”