Ohio State Football: Can J.T. Barrett revive the Buckeyes’ offense?

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: J.T. Barrett /

All eyes will be on Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett this season as we wait and see if he continues to improve or not.

J.T. Barrett’s time as an Ohio State Buckeye has been one of many phases. Over the last few years, we’ve gotten to see the highs and lows in his game.

The overall perception of Barrett has changed over time since he started out as just a redshirt freshman in 2014. His label went from ‘unproven’ to ‘champion’ in less than a year.

Although Barrett didn’t play a single snap in that season’s Big Ten Championship or national championship game due to injury, he was the fuel that lit the fire when the Buckeyes got to the big stage. Barrett had led the Bucks to an 11-1 record, won the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year award as the top quarterback in the Big Ten, and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.

Since then, Barrett’s career has been a roller coaster of varying results. His untimely injury at the end of his spectacular freshman season certainly didn’t help his cause as third-string quarterback Cardale Jones was the one winning the trophy-related games.

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This eventually helped Jones as he earning the nod from the staff to start over Barrett the following season. Whether it be confidence issues or recurring ailments from his injury, Barrett did not look like the same quarterback he once was after that point.

In 2016, Barrett was alone in the driver seat once again when Jones officially declared for the 2016 NFL Draft. However, the Buckeyes had lost just about their entire starting roster to a historically great Buckeye draft class as well.

An offense that was once chock-full of weapons was now reduced to two Swiss Army knives in the form of Barrett and Curtis Samuel.

The Buckeyes made the most out of their two veteran offensive threats with every opportunity. In essence, the Bucks’ offense was ran featuring Barrett and Samuel almost exclusively.

One thing that Ohio State did effectively achieve then was allowing redshirt freshman Mike Weber to develop. He was the third weapon in the Buckeyes’ top heavy offense.

Weber was fed early and often as he was the workhorse when it came to running it between the tackles. As a result, per the school’s sports website, Weber became just the third freshman in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards.

Weber’s presence in the ground game in 2017 will force defenses to stack the box more often. With that, defenses will be on their heels when it comes to defending the pass which will clear things up for Barrett.

Comparatively speaking, the trio of Barrett, Weber, and Samuel combined for 3,668 yards which equaled to 61% of the Buckeyes’ total offense (not including Barrett’s passing yards).

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The conservative nature of the Buckeyes’ offense played a part in hindering Barrett’s production last season. Ohio State has never been the type to air it out, but last season’s offense went a bit further when it came to holding the cards close to the vest.

When the Bucks weren’t running the ball, they were typically throwing it out to the flat or about five yards up the field. Per teamrankings.com, the Bucks ranked 113th in the nation in yards per pass completion. In passing offense, the Bucks fell behind at 81st in the nation.

Not to be mistaken, playing it safe has its perks but it also has its negatives. Ohio State’s offense ran into trouble when they faced the high-flying offense of the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 CFP semifinals. When Clemson’s offense eventually proved to be too much for the Buckeyes’ defense, the offense could not keep up and eventually floundered.

Ohio State did not have the firepower or the experience in their receiving corps to get things going down the field when they needed it. Of course, the Buckeyes shouldn’t put too much into preparing to play from behind, but the ability to throw the ball effectively is necessary in those situations.

Barrett is the favorite to take the helm for the Buckeyes once again. However, questions have risen in regards to his overall effectiveness. Can Barrett put it all together and show out in his final season as a Buckeye?

Though Barrett will likely get the nod to begin the season, he will be doing so on loose ground. Barrett’s job security is hardly solidified as of now.

The Buckeyes have had the luxury of having several solid options at the quarterback position for the last few seasons. That trend doesn’t look to be coming to an end any time soon. Barrett may be the veteran of the group but that doesn’t mean the wealth of talent behind him isn’t worth more than a second look.

Four star quarterbacks redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow, redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, and true freshman Tate Martell are all solid candidates behind Barrett. Burrow made the most of his opportunities to see the field last season in relief of Barrett late in games.

On the other hand, Martell was one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school. With all of those choices in mind, the pressure will be on to hand over the keys to any one of them if Barrett were to struggle.

It won’t be out of the question for Barrett to be operating on a short leash given some limitations that have shown through in his play during parts of 2016. At any rate, we can rest assured that Urban Meyer will make the right decision for the team in the end.

The Buckeyes moved on from previous offensive coordinator Tim Beck soon after the team was shut out by Clemson in the CFP semifinals on New Years’ Eve. There aren’t many better ways to handle your offense getting shutout in the biggest game of the season than consulting the issue starting at the top.

As for his replacement, Indiana‘s former head coach Kevin Wilson will step in as the new offensive coordinator. In addition, Ryan Day has been hired onto the staff as the new quarterbacks coach.

Day was a former quarterbacks coach who worked under former NFL head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly, known for his fast paced offense, led the league in plays per game in 2014 and had the second most plays per game in 2015.

He was very fond of passing the ball as well considering his offense with the Eagles in 2014 and 2015 ranked within the top six in pass attempts per game. The combination of Wilson and Day overseeing Barrett in this offense should be fun to watch this season as both coaches are comfortable with playing at a fast pace.

The relative absence of a fluent passing game could be largely attributed to the lack of experienced depth at the receiver position. Much of the Buckeyes’ receiving corps was made up of young and inexperienced players which could have led to a lack of trust between them and Barrett.

The coaching staff may have also felt timid in calling many pass plays due to lack of confidence in the receivers. Though the receivers weren’t used frequently, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have talent at the position.

Many of the receivers were top recruits in the country such as freshmen additions Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, who were both top ten receivers out of high school. With another year of experience, the chemistry between Barrett and his receivers will be improved.

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Barrett enters his final season with something to prove. He has led the Buckeyes to a few nearly flawless regular seasons but still has the potential to give even more. With all of the pieces rounding into form, all Barrett has to do is execute.