COLUMBUS, Ohio — After working in Braxton Miller’s shadow in 2014 and battling Cardale Jones in 2015, J.T. Barrett is finally the unquestioned leader at Ohio State.
He has everything anyone would look for in the standard-bearer of a program, both on the team and individual level. He’s 15-2 as a starter, has gone 2-0 against Michigan and started 12 games on a national championship team. He also finished fifth in Heisman voting as a redshirt freshman in 2014.
With only a redshirt freshman and a true freshman as competition, there is no questioning his place on the team. Barring injury, it seems a foregone conclusion that he’ll start every game of the 2016 season.
Don’t tell that to Tim Beck, however. While the second-year OSU quarterbacks coach knows Barrett’s place in the lineup is secure, he’s determined to make sure he squeezes out every drop of potential from a quarterback who is viewed as a solid performer but not quite on the tier of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
“We talk about being the best and not settling,” Beck said. “Just going out there and being great isn’t good enough. Being the best at Ohio State isn’t good enough. I want him to be the best quarterback in the country, and so does he. We constantly work on the things that he needs to work on.
“This is his team. He needs to go out there and play like he’s playing for the Heisman Trophy every single practice. We’re not accepting mediocre days. We’re out there pushing him as hard as we can. My job is to get him to that place.”
Beck said he doesn’t explicitly mention the Heisman to his protégé, and Barrett said he tries not to think about being the best quarterback in the country. His hope is that if he worries about himself, the improvements he makes will take care of that debate.
“I just try to be the best me I can be,” Barrett said. “When I am focusing on that, then that can make me the best quarterback in the country. But I’m not focusing on being the best in the country, if that makes sense.”
With one of the youngest teams in the country, both know it will likely take the best play of Barrett’s career to return the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff. It may not be enough for Barrett to perform at an above-average level. Beck no doubt agrees with defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who said on Tuesday that expectations have a way of producing results.
“Expectations here are always to be the best,” Beck said. “It doesn’t matter who’s playing… all the guys who have ever played quarterback here, you’ve got to be the best quarterback in the country. That’s the quarterback coach’s job here at Ohio State is to do that, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”