COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Despite his services not being needed for even a full three quarters, J.T. Barrett remained plenty invested as he stood on the sideline for the final 20 minutes of Ohio State’ 62-3 mauling of Maryland.
For the second time in as many weeks, backup QB Joe Burrow received extended playing time, providing a glimpse into the Buckeyes’ future at the position. When Burrow’s first full drive culminated with a punt thanks to a false start followed by a sack, Ohio State’s starter went from Captain Barrett to Coach Barrett, instructing his understudy to communicate more clearly with the second-string line.
“You gotta talk it out. I think that’s the main thing is making sure everybody’s on the same page,” Barrett said of his conversation with Burrow. “He’d come over and talk to me and I’d be like, ‘Go talk to the (offensive line).’ That’s a part of the success.”
Such teaching moments were ample in the Buckeyes’ second straight blowout. Even before halftime, the Ohio State staff subbed out some starters. Midway through the third quarter, the Buckeyes’ lineups on both sides of the ball were all backups. Only injured players, walk-ons and redshirt candidates didn’t play for Ohio State on Saturday.
But as much as Ohio State’s latest outing may have seemed like extended mop-up duty, the reality is it was much more than that. In each of the past two weeks, the backups received elongated playing time not typically seen at this point in the season.
If the last two Saturdays are any indication, Ohio State’s future is every bit as promising as its present.
And if you’re interested in what the Buckeyes’ starting lineup might look like in 2018 — or even sooner — these past two weeks provided the perfect sneak peek.
“We want those guys to develop. We’ve spent a lot of time this year developing the backups,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “We let them play and have fun and compete and show us what they can do.”
On Saturday, Burrow looked like a more-than-competent backup, completing 6 of his 9 pass attempts for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Terrapins.
But the star of the Buckeyes offense — at least as far as the future is concerned — is freshman RB Demario McCall. After tallying 73 yards against Nebraska a week ago, the 5-foot-9, 182-pound all-purpose back enjoyed an increased role against Maryland, recording 101 total yards (53 rushing, 48 receiving) and a touchdown.
Between his natural burst and developing versatility, McCall has already become the apparent successor to Curtis Samuel at H-back.
He may not even have to wait that long to find an uptick in playing time. Coach Urban Meyer has plenty to think about when it comes to his offense.
“It’s very encouraging,” Meyer said of McCall’s performance. “He’s earned it. I think he’s got a nice future here.”
That also rings true for freshman Binjimen Victor. On Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound receiver hauled in two catches for 36 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass from Burrow.
Based on Meyer’s postgame comments, it sounds like more playing time could be coming the former 4-star prospect’s way.
“We’re just dying to get him the ball,” Meyer said. “You saw two catches, his wingspan — he’s just really a good player.”
Defensively, several seldom-used players stood out Saturday, including freshman LB Malik Harrison, who recorded four tackles, including a sack. Freshman DE Jonathon Cooper notched his first career sack and LB Keandre Jones totaled two tackles.
Some of the players are still raw, but their talent is apparent. Asked if he found his mind wandering toward the future, Meyer remained focused on the present.
“Beat Michigan State,” he offered, pointing to the Buckeyes’ upcoming opponent.
After the past two weeks, forecasting Ohio State’s future no longer requires much fantasizing. Meyer has put together a program built for the long haul.