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J.T. Barrett leadership and individual talent exemplified in romping of Rutgers in Big Ten opener

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A few weeks back, during Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s weekly radio show, he was asked about redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett being just five touchdowns away from the school’s career passing touchdowns record.

“I was like, ‘five away from what?’ Because it doesn’t seem like he’s been playing that long for us,” Meyer said.

On Saturday against Rutgers, Barrett broke that record (57) — set by Bobby Hoying in 1995 — and threw another touchdown pass before the end of the first half for 59 career passing touchdowns in just the fourth game of his third-year with the Buckeyes.

“It’s just a great honor. The tradition here at Ohio State is so rich,” Barrett said. “Despite everything I’ve been through, it feels surreal. That’s crazy that I was just trying to do my part and do my best for the team and then broke the record. I’m truly grateful for it.”

Barrett was Meyer’s first quarterback commitment at OSU, but Meyer couldn’t project at the time the importance Barrett would have in his program.

Heck, he hadn’t even seen Barrett throw a ball by the time the Wichita Falls, Texas, native signed with the Buckeyes.

Meyer made a call to his friend, and former NFL quarterback, Trent Dilfer who runs a high-school quarterback competition known as the Elite 11. Each year, quarterback recruits from around the country go to compete for the right to be named an Elite 11 quarterback. When Barrett participated in the competition in 2012, he struck the eye of Dilfer. Meyer then sent his then-offensive coordinator Tom Herman to recruit Barrett, and the rest is history.

In just 21 starts and 27 total games played, Barrett surpassed a record that stood for more than 20 years.

“He’s the first quarterback I’ve ever signed that I never saw throw. Think about that,” Meyer said. “I guess I should do that more often.”

Saturday’s performance of 21-for-29, 238 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception from Barrett exemplified his value to the OSU team. Barrett’s first drive ended in an interception on a play that he admitted he made the wrong read. But after that, Barrett threw all four of his touchdowns in the first half and officially put in his ticket for Heisman Trophy candidacy.

Barrett has completed 68.6 percent of his passes through the team’s first four games, with 888 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also ran for three touchdowns.

Barrett said that he doesn’t feel more pressure being named a Heisman candidate because the coaches prepare him and the offense to perform at a high level each week.

“It means something to me … but that can’t be your entire focus because I think that might throw off your game. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I feel,” he said. “I focus on our team and winning each and every week. We want to get to Indianapolis and be Big Ten champs and make sure every unit is playing at its max.”

Even more evident than OSU’s 58-0 stomping on Rutgers, Barrett leadership and command of the offense has dictated the team’s play this season, as expected. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught his first career touchdown pass on Saturday, said Barrett’s knowledge of the game spreads through the team.

“When he challenges us, we listen,” McLaurin said about Barrett. “The confidence that he brings and the way he plays each and every down we have no choice but to match that.”

Redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber has been a workout partner of Barrett’s since summer. Weber has been a consistent force in the OSU offense which can be credited to Barrett. Weber said his 144 yards and one touchdown against Rutgers is partly due to Barrett’s ability to open up the offense with his skillset.

“It’s kind of surprising how many touchdowns he threw. How many did he throw? … That’s crazy,” Weber said. “I see it paying off because he’s such a hard worker and hard work pays off all the time so big ups to him.”

Barrett didn’t know Meyer well when he arrived at OSU. Now, the fifth-year coach at OSU recognizes Barrett as one of the best to play in Columbus.

“I’m an Ohio State fan. So I know all the great quarterbacks at Ohio State, all the great players,” Meyer said. “That’s just an incredible feat when you consider the school that he broke that at … Still got a lot of football left.”

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