The debate raged more or less non-stop on message boards, talk radio, and social media for four years.
To many Buckeye fans, J.T. Barrett was a record-setting quarterback who helped lead the Ohio State to 49 wins and a national championship.
To others, J.T. Barrett was a physically-limited quarterback whose inability to hit deep passes prevented the Buckeyes from winning even more.
To a subset of both of those groups, Urban Meyer’s reliance on Barrett’s running ability in key spots made the Buckeyes predictable; a pattern that repeated itself in the team’s rare losses.
Now Barrett is gone, and with the arrival of the Dwayne Haskins era comes a fresh start for both the program and the fanbase.
Where Barrett was a reliable runner but occasionally limited passer, Haskins has a truly special arm but is less mobile.
Urban Meyer knows that change will have a big impact on what his offense looks like this fall.
“Your quarterback is such a key part,” Meyer said. “(Haskins’) skillset is so unique. Very different than J.T. Barrett. His release, his size, his accuracy are his strengths.”
Senior wide receiver Parris Campbell said Haskins is just on a whole different level than most players at the position.
“You have great quarterbacks, but then you have a handful of quarterbacks who just are different and have that elite skill,” Campbell said. “It’s not something they earn, it’s something that they’re blessed with and Dwayne definitely has that gift.”
Campbell has a pretty good idea what Haskins’ arm strength and accuracy will mean for the offense this fall.
“We’re going to add to our game vertically, we already have an established run game with J.K. (Dobbins) and Mike (Weber),” he said. “I think it’s going to be hard for defenses to contain us once we get clicking on all phases.”
Meyer said many of the general principles of the offense would be similar this fall. The quarterback will still have frequent opportunities to “read” a defender and take what the defense is giving him. However, instead of plays where Barrett frequently had the choice between handing the ball to a running back like Dobbins or keeping it himself, Haskins may be more often given a decision between a handoff or a pass.
“We’re still going to be a spread offense, which means you have dual opportunities, either give it or pull it,” Meyer said. “The RPO (run/pass option) world where you either give it or you throw it, I just think that’s going to be even more involved than it was with J.T.”
Campbell has always been effusive in his praise of Barrett, a trend that continued at Big Ten Media Days this month. However, it’s not hard to tell that he’s excited for the chance to work with Haskins full-time.
“With the gifts and the talent that he’s been blessed with, we’re going to be able to do a lot more as an offense,” Campbell said. “The run game’s already established. Being able to take the top of coverages off, being able to vertically stretch teams, and being able to also beat them on the ground. That’s hard.
“How do you gameplan that as a defense? Do you want to load the box or do you want to double coverage on the outside?”
It’s a question opposing defensive coordinators will be agonizing over all season.