Urban Meyer knew a day would come when the Ohio State football program would no longer have J.T. Barrett at quarterback. They prepared for that inevitability through recruiting, and right now the Buckeyes have Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, and Tate Martell all vying to be the guy.
As the quarterback of Urban Meyer’s offense — and Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day’s offense — big numbers are going to happen. Last season, Barrett threw for 3,053 yards and 35 touchdowns. The quarterback in the Ohio State offense is a product of those surrounding him, and whoever wins the job this season will have nearly all of the same players around him that Barrett did.
The major difference, however, is the 800 yards rushing per season Barrett averaged in his four years as the starter.
While the OSU offensive coaching staff is confident in the passing game of whichever quarterback wins the job, none of them possesses all of the traits that Barrett used to make himself such an effective runner. As such, there are expectations within the program that we could see more passing this season from the Ohio State offense.
“I think that’s kind of inevitable,” said receivers coach Zach Smith. “You take an offense that was the number one offense in the Big Ten and you lose a guy like J.T. Barrett, you’ve got to replace those yards with something.”
Each of the prospective starters at quarterback can keep plays alive with their legs, but Barrett’s ability to find the first-down marker was unrivaled. The OSU offensive brain trust also learned gradually that unless you have Braxton Miller at quarterback, running the zone read just means teams are going to key on the running back and force the quarterback to keep the ball. Now, for a guy like Tate Martell, that might not be such a bad thing, but running the ball with Joe Burrow or Dwayne Haskins instead of J.K. Dobbins or Mike Weber isn’t an ideal attack.
“If you don’t have a quarterback who’s going to run it like [Barrett] ran it, you’d better find another way,” Smith said. “Whether it’s hand the ball to Mike Weber or J.K. or whoever or if it’s in the throw game. We have to replace those yards, then take it to the next step, we’re trying to enhance it. I’d imagine we’re going to see the passing offense open up a little bit and the tailback run game open up a little bit.”
The quarterback run game will always be a part of the offense because it makes life difficult for defenses. Any time you have a quarterback that can leave the pocket and force a defense to find him, you are creating advantages for the offense. This year, they will work on finding new ways to use those old tricks.
“At the end of the day, this offense is what it is, Smith said. “And there’s going to be elements where instead of a dual read where the quarterback might run it, you might have now a throw read attached to the run game where now he’s handing off or throwing. There’s other ways to feature whoever our quarterback is.”