If J.T. Barrett’s backup quarterbacks haven’t been learning from the example he set for them in their time at Ohio State, then they just weren’t paying attention.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, that hasn’t been the case.
For Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, and Tate Martell, every day was a learning experience playing alongside Barrett, even if they didn’t always know it at the time.
Before Burrow’s hand injury last summer, he and Barrett were essentially attached at the hip, and if football osmosis is a thing, then it would be found there. Unfortunately, the broken hand pushed Burrow just out of range of the 2017 picture, while the focus then turned to Haskins and Martell.
Haskins showed in the Michigan game that he had been paying attention. He had no nerves. He was only focused on executing the plays in front of him.
Martell, meanwhile, wanted to contribute in any way he could, so he helped out the defense by playing on the scout team. It wasn’t something he was required to do — it was something that he wanted to do.
Both players showed the leadership required to be the starting quarterback at Ohio State, and that’s exactly what they took away from their time playing behind J.T. Barrett.
“Just his leadership and the way he attacks every day,” Haskins said. “Workouts, practice, meetings, it’s very professional. I’ve learned a lot from him regarding that.”
Dwayne Haskins played behind Barrett for two seasons, so he’s had more time to spread out the lessons that he’s learned. Tate Martell, however, only had one year of Barrett’s tutelage, so when he is asked what he learned in that time, it’s much more difficult to put the entirety of the lessons into a quick, concise answer.
“It’s hard to say one thing because honestly he does everything the way it’s supposed to be done,” Martell said. “I truly mean that. I don’t even know how to pick out one thing. He’s just such a good leader. When he’s on the field he’s a good leader. In the locker room he’s a good leader. He knows how to relate with all of the guys. Looking after a guy like me, he takes me under his wing and shows me how to do things, like what to do and how to act. You appreciate guys like that.”
Now that Barrett is gone, so are the training wheels. Somebody new is going to have to take over the team, be it Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, or Tate Martell. The good news for the Buckeyes who remain is that all three quarterbacks learned from one of the best leaders in Ohio State history.
It will be different, but this is what they have been preparing for since the day they arrived.
“It’ll definitely be different not having him around. He’s been here for two years,” Haskins said. “Now that I don’t have a leader in front of me, I’ve got to be a leader now. I think it’ll be a lot of maturing for me to do, but I feel like I can handle it.”
No doubt, both Burrow and Martell feel the same way, and this spring will be an opportunity for all three players to show what they have learned.