Buckeye Breakdown: JT Barrett is firmly entrenched as the starter, but will Burrow or Haskins emerge as a go-to backup?
As the season continues to grow closer, Ohio State’s depth chart at each position is beginning to take shape. After losing 16 starters, including 12 during the NFL draft, this will be one of the program’s youngest teams in recent memory.
Join Landof10.com as we break down each of the position groups and what Buckeye fans can expect from each one this fall.
Today’s focus is the Buckeyes quarterback position, which enters 2016 without the questions that plagued it in 2014 and 2015.
Assessing the roster
Lost: Cardale Jones
Added: Dwayne Haskins, Jr.
Returning: J.T. Barrett, Stephen Collier (injured, out for the season)
Projected depth chart
- Starter: J.T. Barrett
- No. 2: Joe Burrow
- No. 3: Dwayne Haskins, Jr.
Unlike most teams in the Big Ten, Ohio State returns their starter at quarterback and that starter is, unquestionably, redshirt junior J.T. Barrett.
In 2014, Barrett was thrust into the spotlight after an injured labrum ended two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller’s season and he responded in spectacular fashion. Then a redshirt freshman, Barrett finished 11-1 as a starter and set 19 different Ohio State records and two Big Ten records on his way to being named the league’s freshman of the year, its quarterback of the year and finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting that December.
Unfortunately for Barrett, he also suffered a serious ankle injury against Michigan in November of 2014 that cost him the last two months of the season and slowed him for the start of the 2015 season which led to Cardale Jones taking over the No. 1 guy last fall. With all that behind him Barrett is comfortable and secure as the man for the Buckeyes and he’s taken his role as a leader seriously this off-season. More than that, Barrett has seen more of the ups and downs in a college career than most but he says it’s helped him understand how to find success more than failure.
“I would probably say sticking to what we do best,” Barrett said recently when asked what he learned from last season. “There were times last year even as players we were trying to do too much because you had a lot more knowledge of the game, not just myself but older teammates. Our base offense and base defense, that’s really good. If we do that, we’ll be a really good team. There were times we got away from that, and it really hurt us.”
With Barrett taking the snaps, a roster full of question marks has one thing sorted out: J.T. Barrett is the man at quarterback.
Excluding the starter, there are currently nothing but questions at quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Stephen Collier, an Elite 11 participant in 2014, suffered a torn ACL in the spring and will miss the 2016 season, opening the door for redshirt freshman Joe Burrow and true freshman Dwayne Haskins, Jr. to compete for the backup job behind Barrett. Burrow has been in the program a year longer than Haskins, so most assume he’s got the inside edge but to this point that’s not been finalized and that’s absolutely an issue, though Barrett says Burrow has made some significant strides.
In 2015, the first year for quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, the offense took a noticeable step backward as Cardale Jones and Barrett rotated from game-to-game and even inside of games. This year, Beck says he’s more comfortable with an established guy but until there are actual on-field results the concern and questions will persist.
“I know what to expect,” Beck said when was asked what may be different this year. “Coming in the first time and going through it, every coach has different ways of doing things all the time, and there’s a learning curve that goes with that as well. I know what to expect more and then we can dive into J.T. and really push him and develop Joe and Dwayne at quarterback.
“Expectations here are always to be the best. It doesn’t matter who’s playing. All the way back a long time ago, to Braxton Miller, and 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.”
Can Beck bring the best out of Burrow and Haskins so that if something happens to Barrett the offense remains in good hands? That’s the biggest question and one that – if history is an indicator – may have to be answered. In 2013, Kenny Guiton had to save the day for the Buckeyes. Barrett, then Cardale Jones had to do it in 2014, and Barrett had to play fixer in 2015; what happens if that scenario occurs this fall? Will Ohio State be prepared?
Barrett says he’s not sure, but that the backups – especially Burrow – are coming along.
“You can tell it’s slowed down for him a little bit,” he said of the Athens, Ohio native. “He’s gotten better at that. That comes with reps. Now he has reps with spring ball under his belt, and coming to camp, he’s doing a better job at recognizing what the defense is trying to do.”
What to expect
Expect J.T. Barrett to do what J.T. Barrett has done since he first took the field in 2014: produce yards and points. However, don’t expect it to always be pretty. This year’s football team will rely more heavily on Barrett than any Ohio State offense has on the quarterback position since Braxton Miller in 2012 and if you remember that season at all, you recall it was at times pretty strenuous despite the Buckeyes 12-0 finish.
Barrett returns, but he’s going to have to rely on a new running back, new wide receivers, and a trio of (virtually) new tight ends. As J.T. Barrett goes, so too will Ohio State. Buckeyes fans will get a good idea of what this year will hold by the time they walk out of Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium the night of Sept. 17.
If the Wichita Falls, Texas quarterback can stay healthy, don’t be surprised when you see Barrett in New York come December as a Heisman finalist for the second time in his career.