There isn’t a positional group on the Ohio State roster where there is so much controversy without being any…y’know controversy over the starter.
It really isn’t uncommon for the starting quarterback to take a lot of heat, whether you are at Ohio State or Idaho State. In this case, the heat gets scorching when the last time you saw the quarterback he was guiding a potentially powerful offense to two close victories and a soul-crushing defeat, all while throwing for 333 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions combined over those final three games.
If that is not bad enough, you can then factor in the talent Ohio State has brought into the QB room over the past couple of years. These very young, very talented, and very inexperienced players are chomping at the bits to take over the Ohio State signal calling duties in the near future. Understandably, the fan base wants to see these exciting players on the field too.
Spring game performances didn’t quench the fan-base thirst to see these young guns. The backups played great games, but in very unrealistic game situations, which is sometimes hard to separate.
With that said, the first stop in my Pre-Fall positional tour will be the quarterback room which now consists of four former four-star recruits. Sitting in front of new position coach Ryan Day will be a record-setting quarterback, two enormously talented quarterbacks waiting their turn, and possibly the most highly-regarded freshman quarterback to come through OSU in a long time.
J.T. Barrett is the unquestioned starter going into fall camp for just the second time in his career. The fifth-year senior is a three-time captain, 26-4 as a starter, and has combined for almost 9,000 total yards and 100 touchdowns. If that isn’t enough, Barrett is a two-time Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, 2016 Chicago Tribune Silver Football award winner, 2014 Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, and numerous other forms of recognition.
You would think with all of that, Ohio State fans would be unanimously ecstatic for him to return for his fifth season. Unfortunately, that is not the case and this is a huge year for J.T. Barrett and his long-term legacy at Ohio State.
Consistency in the passing game will be key for Barrett. Last year was rough at times but I don’t think it is fair to put the entire blame on Barrett for the offensive failures. He was playing behind three new starters on the offensive line, his pass catchers were very inconsistent outside of Curtis Samuel, and his offensive coaching staff was as creative as Lamps Plus hiring Forrest Lamp.
This year, the same cannot be said. He has four returning offensive linemen, one of the greatest offensive minds in college football, and a NFL-caliber QB coach. The big question mark is will he find a rhythm with his wide receivers, which he never seemed to find last year.
I have mentioned it many times over the past couple of months, but I truly believe Barrett will have his best season ever in 2017. The combination of an experienced offensive line and an amazing coaching staff will help, but I think the receivers will make a giant leap this year. “Older” guys like K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon are primed to play huge roles for the first time in their careers, which will help Barrett immensely.
The man poised to be number two on the depth chart heading into the season is the hamburger crusher, Joe Burrow. Burrow (rSoph) was the backup last season after beating out Stephen Collier. The former four-star recruit out of Ohio finished 2016 with 284 combined yards and three touchdowns spread out over five blowouts. In brief stints, Burrow has shown the ability to be a very accurate thrower while also displaying that Krenzel-like knack to scramble when needed.
Heading into fall practice, Burrow does have some heavy competition for that No. 2 spot on the depth chart with Dwayne Haskins. Haskins (rFr) is a former four-star recruit out of Maryland and was a late flip from his commitment to Maryland. Haskins is more of the prototypical pocket passer that OSU hasn’t seen in recent years, save for some cameos by Cardale Jones. His arm strength is easily the best on the team and he showed the ability to have touch and accuracy when delivering the ball during the spring.
Speaking of the spring, I am betting that Ohio State was hoping one of these guys would clearly separate themselves and take hold of the No. 2 job. Problem is, both had great springs and both looked like they should be the top backup to Barrett. Burrow guided the Scarlet team to a 38-31 victory while throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Not to be outdone, Haskins was on-fire throwing for 293 yards and three touchdowns. The battle for this job will go deep into fall.
Rounding out the quarterback room is a young man who would be battling for significant playing time at most other schools, even as a true freshman. Tate Martell comes to Ohio State from Nevada powerhouse Bishop Gorman where he was 45-0 in his career and named the 2016 Gatorade Football Player of the Year and USA Today Offensive Player of the Year. If an unblemished record and prestigious awards aren’t enough to excite you, consider his career stats of 7,507 passing yards, 2,294 rushing yards, and 148 combined touchdowns. Chances are — barring a lot of injuries — this young man won’t see the field this year, but I think he will make his mark on the Ohio State record books in the near future.
PREDICTED DEPTH CHART
16 J.T. Barrett (rSr)
10 Joe Burrow (rSo)
7 Dwayne Haskins (rFr)
Ultimately, when the first depth chart comes out for that game against Indiana, I feel like Burrow will be listed in the second spot. With that said, you can never rule out the dreaded “or”, as Urban Meyer has shown he likes to use that as much as possible.
The big question will come down to this — regardless who is listed as number two, who would start if Barrett goes down for an extended period of time? I can confidently say that I feel like Burrow will be that guy going into the season. I can’t confidently say he would start over Haskins if Barrett went down for an extended period of time.
As you can tell, I feel like J.T. Barrett will easily have the best year of his amazing career. Before you blow off the possibility, let me throw you my rationale behind these stats. Last season, Barrett threw the ball 379 times, which does not include the designed pass plays which broke down. With the improved offensive line play and new offensive coaching philosophy, it is not completely unrealistic for Barrett to attempt 400 throws this year, which is only a mere 21 more attempts.
After figuring out the attempts, you can look at his career and see that he has a career completion percentage of 63%…this gives me the 252 completions. Next, I looked at his career yards per attempt which is sitting right around 7.5 yards per attempt. With his yards per attempt, I can do that math thing and come up with 3,000 yards passing.
As far as rushing goes, I still feel like 153 carries for Barrett are too many with the amount of talent at running back. Last season, he rushed the ball 203 times, so at least it would be a significant drop there. Over his career, he has averaged 5 yards per carry, which gives us the 765 yards. Both rushing totals would be a significant drop from his two previous full-time starting jobs in 2014 and 2016, which is a step in the right direction.
Overall, you can tell the quarterback room is in very good hands for the foreseeable future. Going into fall camp, this is one position for the Buckeyes you should not have to worry about.