Ohio State football has produced some outstanding offensive players throughout their rich football history. With names like Eddie George, Cris Carter, Paul Warfield and of course college football’s only two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin, you get a sense of the tradition of talented athletes that have donned the scarlet and gray.
The legacy of offensive success will look to continue this season with JT Barrett, who statistically has earned the right to add his name to the list of the great Buckeyes above.
Barrett boasts a 26-4 career record as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, and his 69 passing touchdowns and 100 touchdowns responsible for are the most in school history. Barrett has also been the Big Ten’s Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year award winner twice, claiming that honor in 2014 and 2016. He is the only three-time captain the Buckeyes have ever had in their 127 year football history. (For reference, Ohio State has only had eight players be two-time captains)
2017 will present a bit of a change for Barrett, who will start for new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, and his third quarterback coach at Ohio State in Ryan Day. Although the names have changed, Barrett told the Big Ten Network that “not a lot has really changed” in the Buckeyes’ offense.
“Our offense is still the same, still run the same plays,” Barrett said about the potential changes to Ohio State’s offensive schemes. “If anything, the offense in the offseason you try and tweak those plays and make them as best as possible.”
One change Barrett has noticed, however, is the pace in which his offense will operate this season. The offense will be “emphasizing tempo [and] playing fast,” according to Barrett. “We’ve played fast in the past, but I think what [Wilson] does could enhance what we do offensively.”
Barrett’s head coach Urban Meyer has embraced the changes to the offense with open arms. “We want to go fast, we want to play fast” Meyer said in an interview with the Big Ten Network. “Even when we’re not going fast, we’re going fast and I like that.”
Along with the change of tempo, Ohio State hopes to see improvements along the offensive line and at the receiver position. The Buckeyes allowed 28 sacks last season, which was tied for 68th in the NCAA.
As any leader would, though, Barrett takes the blame for the struggles the offense faced at times last season. “We didn’t play our best. Whether it be myself, offensive line, receivers, [or] tight ends,” Barrett said. “Everybody on offense, we could have played better throughout the season. So, we all are kind of looking at ourselves and making sure we can be at our best.”
Surprisingly, it seemed Barrett was at his best in the face of pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, a website devoted to football analytics, Barrett threw for 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions and held a 113.4 passer rating when the opponent blitzed him. The passer rating was the best against the blitz among returning FBS quarterbacks, according to PFF.
Yet, in 2017, Barrett will need to find new targets to throw to. The Buckeyes lost their top two receivers from last season in Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown. Samuel and Brown combined for 106 receptions and 14 receiving touchdowns in 2016.
Ohio State hopes to have several receivers fill the void left by Samuel and Brown. Urban Meyer mentioned several players who have stepped up during the offseason: junior Johnnie Dixon, junior Parris Campbell and junior Terry McLaurin.
Meyer was critical of Dixon’s career so far, telling the Big Ten Network that ‘he’s done nothing since he’s been here.” Dixon had just six catches last season for the Buckeyes.
Still, Meyer sees the potential in Dixon. “I love him and he’s had the best training camp,” Meyer said. “He’s going to be a legitimate deep threat for us.”
Barrett realized there were some issues in the receiving core last year. “At times last season we got ourselves in some jams as far as helping the receivers get open,” Barrett said.
The Buckeyes finished last season ranked 81st in the nation in passing offense, averaging 213.9 passing yards per game. As a comparison, Wilson’s Indiana Hoosiers ended up with the 28th best passing offense, with an average of 273.8 yards a game.
Given Wilson’s pedigree and Barrett’s career success with Ohio State, you can expect to see improvement on the offensive side of the ball in Barrett’s senior season, even given the question marks surrounding his offensive line and receivers.
After all, he has become one of the best to ever don the scarlet and gray. Just like some of his famous predecessors.