By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer didn’t believe what he saw, didn’t want to believe what he saw when he looked at the text message on his phone around 6 o’oclock Saturday morning.
That was the moment Ohio State’s football coach learned his starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett, a player he had constantly praised for his leadership and character, had been cited for operating a vehicle while impaired near campus earlier Saturday morning.
“I actually called the person who texted me and said, ‘Did I read this right?’ ” Meyer said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
In addition to the coaches, team leaders had reminded OSU’s players not to get into trouble last week during a bye week.
Since Barrett is a captain and gave pre-game speeches in the locker room even when he wasn’t starting earlier this season, it would not be a major leap to think he was one of the players delivering that stay safe message.
Offensive lineman Taylor Decker, the only player available for interviews on Monday, said, “I would not like to answer that question,” when asked if Barrett had told other players to stay out of trouble.
Barrett’s punishment will be a one-game suspension and losing his financial aid for summer school next summer, which could be reinstated at a later date.
It is possible he could return to the starting lineup for the game at Illinois on Nov. 14, Meyer said. “If he’s good enough and earns that right, but I haven’t gone that far yet,” he said. Meyer also said Barrett would not necessarily automatically be stripped of his captain’s title.
However, he does have a long way to go to get back to where he was before being cited at a sobriety check point, which he tried to avoid, early Saturday.
He started that process by calling several team leaders on Saturday. He spent time talking to Meyer at his home on Saturday and addressed the whole team on Monday.
“He took it upon himself to call leaders of the team. Not a lot of guys would have done that. He wanted to tell us from his mouth what happened,” Decker said. “When I spoke to him, he said, ‘I’m going to be fine.’ He was more worried about us than himself. That’s J.T.
“He made a stupid mistake, no question about it, but I don’t think that is 100 percent reflective of the type of person he is and his true character,” he said
Barrett’s suspension means Cardale Jones will return as the starting quarterback, a position he held the first seven games this season before Barrett regained the starting job at Rutgers the last time the Buckeyes were on the field.
Ohio State’s offense seemed more effective with Barrett at quarterback than with Jones. So, the obvious question is whether it will continue that trend with Jones at the controls or take a step back when No. 1 Ohio State plays Minnesota on Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.
Another interesting element in the story is that Braxton Miller is apparently now the back-up quarterback for the Buckeyes. “There’s no question he’s our No. 2 quarterback. In almost every game he has a package at quarterback. He can throw,” Meyer said.
Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner also is confident Miller could play quarterback if necessary, even after two shoulder surgeries.
“He is completely healted. He’s medically able to go. Behind the scenes there are a lot of things he has been doing that nobody knows about. We’re confident he will do whatever he needs to do to help us win a game,” Warinner said.
KICKOFF TIMES: OSU’s game at Michigan on Nov. 28 will have a noon kickoff time. It is still uncertain which network will televise the game.
Next week’s game at Illinois will be either a noon or 3:30 p.m kickoff. That will not be decided until after this weekend’s games.
INJURY REPORT: Receiver Dontre Wilson’s long-running foot problems added another chapter when he had “a procedure” done, according to Meyer. He is questionable for this week as is receiver Parris Campbell (knee). Receiver Johnnie Dixon is out with a stress fracture.
OFFENSIVE LINE IMPROVING: Warinner, who is also the offensive line coach, said the line is playing “pretty good.”
“The last four or five games we’re playing extremely well,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.
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