Buy or sell: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett matching his superb numbers from 2014
Does it seem like Ohio State has only had four starting quarterbacks since Troy Smith captured the Heisman Trophy in 2006 — Terrelle Pryor and the three QBs making up last year’s depth chart?
The above question comes with tongue planted in cheek; but it’s not that far from the truth.
Citing the last nine seasons, the Buckeyes’ regular starting tradition includes only Pryor, Todd Boeckman, Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. And if he fully exhausts his eligibility at OSU, Barrett would have two more years with the Buckeyes offense through 2017.
This kind of high-level, ultra-reliable continuity helps explain Ohio State’s many accomplishments since 2006: One national championship in 2014, one Heisman winner, four Big Ten titles and eight years of double-digit victories, with a 112-20 overall record in that span.
It also makes one wonder if Barrett ends up as the best quarterback of the bunch?
To reach this lofty status, to cement a QB legacy that’s perhaps greater than Smith, Pryor, Miller, Rex Kern, Craig Krenzel and even Art Schlichter, it’s imperative for Barrett to produce at least one Heisman, one conference championship or maybe a national title in the next two seasons.
Sounds easy enough, huh?
The team projections with Ohio State have been well documented over the last five weeks. Instead, for today’s exercise, we’ll focus on the “Buy or Sell” notion of Barrett matching his excellent numbers from 2014 — 3,772 total yards and 45 total touchdowns.
MATCHING GOAL: 2,834 YARDS PASSING
It’s easy to view Barrett in the prism of a running quarterback, given his edge-rushing expertise on Wildcat plays.
As a freshman, though, Barrett eclipsed the 300-yard mark four times — including 312 yards passing and six touchdowns against Kent State, the week after Ohio State incurred a devastating home loss to Virginia Tech.
Conversely, as a sophomore, Barrett, while occasionally splitting time with Cardale Jones, never cracked 230 yards passing in a game.
For that 12-game freshman campaign, Barrett had a completion rate of 60-plus percent 11 times. But of the seven outings of double-digit pass attempts in 2015, Barrett only finished ahead of 60 percent four times.
The above numbers would suggest either Barrett peaked as a freshman, or opposing defenses quickly closed that learning-curve gap of handling him in the pocket. After all, counting six Big Ten games and the bowl matchup with Notre Dame from last season, Barrett rushed for 11 touchdowns — the same running output from 2014.
For his 12-game stint as a freshman, Barrett modestly averaged 236.2 yards passing to reach the total of 2,834. Should Ohio State reach the Big Ten title game and subsequently qualify for a high-profile bowl, Barrett would only need to average 202.4 yards.
In any healthy scenario, Barrett projects as a lock for 3,000 yards passing.
MATCHING GOAL: 938 RUSHING YARDS
In 2014, Barrett cracked triple digits with rushing yards twice.
Last year, despite sharing QB reps with Jones, Barrett produced three outings of 100-plus rushing yards.
This bodes well for Barrett eclipsing established personal bests with 100-yard outings in a season, yearly rushing yards and career rushing yards per game (70.4).
Put another way, with Ohio State breaking in new playmakers within the passing game, Barrett has a great shot at surpassing his career rushing number (1,620 yards) in 2016 alone.
MATCHING GOAL: 45 TOUCHDOWNS
Here’s where things get tricky:
Even if the Buckeyes roll through the regular season, capture the Big Ten title and subsequently advance to the College Football Playoff final, Barrett would still need to average three touchdowns for that 15-game campaign. (For a 14-game season, would need to average 3.21 TDs to match the 2014 tally.)
Within that context, of his 23 outings at Ohio State, Barrett fell short of three touchdowns (passing/rushing) 10 different times; and during that career span, the junior-to-be averaged only 1.96 TDs per game.
However, if we remove the first two games of 2014 – freshman orientation period – and first four games of 2015 – when splitting time with Jones – Barrett’s per-game touchdown average jumps to 2.93. With this change, we’re now in the ballpark of 40 TDs.
Speaking of which, if Barrett plans on improving his Heisman-voting status from 2014 (5th overall), he’ll need at least 40 scores to seal the deal. The prestigious award’s recent history demands this to be true:
- 2014: Marcus Mariota (4,454 yards passing, 57 total TDs)
2013: Jameis Winston (4,057 yards passing, 44 total TDs)
2012: Johnny Manziel (3,706 yards passing, 47 total TDs)
2011: Robert Griffin III (4,293 yards passing, 47 total TDs)
2010: Cam Newton (2,854 yards passing, 50 total TDs)
2008: Sam Bradford (4,720 yards passing, 55 total TDs)
2007: Tim Tebow (3,286 yards passing, 55 total TDs)
One last note: Ohio State has a formidable schedule this year, but it’s not daunting from a defending-Barrett perspective. To wit, Oklahoma, the Buckeyes’ high-profile non-conference opponent on Sept. 17) ranked just 39th in total defense last season. And in the College Football Playoff semifinals, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson — a reasonable comp to Barrett’s versatility — notched 332 total yards and two touchdowns against the Sooners.
FINAL VERDICT: ‘BUY’ ON ALL THREE FRONTS
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.