COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer knew J.T. Barrett was good.
But even the Ohio State coach didn’t know his star quarterback was this good.
A native of Ashtabula, Ohio, Meyer is plenty familiar with — and has his own connections to — some of the greatest quarterbacks in Buckeyes history.
As a kid, Meyer rooted for Cornelius Greene in the “10-Year War” against Michigan. He won the first national title of his coaching career at Florida game-planning against Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. He unsuccessfully tried to recruit Terrelle Pryor to Gainesville. His 24-0 start as the coach at Ohio State happened in large part because of the play of Braxton Miller.
So it’s easy to understand why, after learning career marks his current quarterback was approaching earlier this season, Meyer was caught off guard.
After all, Barrett hasn’t even been the Buckeyes’ starting signal-caller for two full seasons.
“I’m an Ohio State fan, so I know all the great quarterbacks at Ohio State, all the great players,” Meyer said moments after the Buckeyes’ 58-0 win against Rutgers on Saturday, which saw Barrett become the Buckeyes’ all-time leader in passing touchdowns. “That’s just incredible feat when you consider the school that he broke that at.
“I had no idea, but I think on the [Urban Meyer Call-In Show] someone said he’s only five away, a couple weeks ago. And I was, like, ‘Five away from what?’ Because it doesn’t seem like he’s been playing that long for us.”
Really, he hasn’t been. While he’s a fourth-year player in stature, the redshirt junior had his freshman campaign in 2014 cut short after 12 games due to injury, before being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup a year ago. A third of the way through the 2016 season, Barrett has just 21 official starts in his college career.
Yet, there’s his name already sitting atop the Buckeyes’ all-time passing touchdowns list with 59, just four scores from Braxton Miller’s total touchdowns responsible for record of 88. That total includes scores made by rushing and receiving. He’s also the current leader in Ohio State history for both completion percentage (65) and passer efficiency rating (164.2)
Have I mentioned he still has fewer than two full seasons’ worth of starts under his belt?
“Definitely, in my opinion, he’s becoming one of the real great Ohio State quarterbacks of all time,” Buckeyes historian Jack Park, the author of The Official Ohio State Encyclopedia, told Land of 10. “And one of the very few real great ones.”
Is it possible he’s already the best?
I posed the question on Twitter following Barrett’s record-breaking performance on Saturday and the reaction was interesting.
To most, the gold standard when it comes to Ohio State signal-callers is still Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner who entered this season as the Buckeyes’ career leader in passing efficiency, before Barrett qualified to be officially recognized for the statistic with his 300th career completion. The only full-time quarterback in Big Ten history to win the Heisman, Smith built his legacy at Ohio State with more than just numbers.
But as far as the stats are concerned, Barrett is catching up — and, in some cases, has already surpassed Smith.
|Name||Games Played||Completion Percentage||Passing Yards||Passing TDs||Total Yards||Total TDs||INTs||Passer Rating||W-L|
Should he continue playing at his current 2016 clip of 222 passing yards and 273.25 total yards per game, Barrett is on pace to eclipse Smith in career passing yards during the next six games and total yards within the next two games. In other words, when it comes to numbers, there won’t be much of an argument to be had between Barrett and Smith, so long as Barrett stays healthy for the rest of the 2016 season.
The same could be said of Barrett and most other quarterbacks in Buckeyes history. Continuing at his current pace, Barrett would pass Art Schlichter’s career total offense (8,850) record and challenge for his passing yards (7,547) mark by season’s end as well — and that’s with a whole other season of eligibility still available to him after the 2016 campaign.
Should Barrett return to Columbus for the 2017 season, forget about Ohio State’s record books. He’d likely find himself one of the best statistical quarterbacks in Big Ten, if not college football, history.
As for the argument Barrett’s numbers are inflated due to playing in a pass-happy system, Park disagrees. “I think he would have been successful in any era,” the Ohio State historian said.
|J.T. Barrett Career Numbers||Stats||Rank in Ohio State History|
|Wins||19||9 (tied with 3 others)|
Of course, there’s more to a quarterback’s legacy than just numbers.
While not measuring up statistically, Rex Kern is in the conversation of all-time Buckeye greats thanks in large part to Ohio State’s 1968 national championship. The same could be said of Craig Krenzel in 2002. While the evolution of offenses may make quarterbacks tough to compare across eras, a team’s victories with a specific signal-caller is usually an accurate indication of a player’s worth.
Barrett’s status in this regard is somewhat complicated. He won 11 games as a starter in 2014, but he was absent due to injury throughout the team’s run through the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes likely wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place, if not for Barrett, but, fair or not, it’s Cardale Jones who will be remembered as that season’s national championship-winning quarterback.
Of course, with Ohio State currently ranked second in the polls and looking as impressive as any team in college football, there’s plenty of time left this season for Barrett to add a more clearly defined championship to his resume.
The same could be said of the Heisman Trophy, an award some have asserted Barrett must win in order to make an undisputed claim as the Buckeyes’ best quarterback. According to the online sports book, Bovada, Barrett currently trails behind Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in this year’s Heisman race, but Ohio State’s biggest games of the season and a plethora of potential prime-time showcases still remain.
“He’s a Heisman candidate,” said Meyer, who coached Tim Tebow during his Heisman-winning season at Florida in 2007. “That’s no disrespect to other players. I just don’t get to see a lot of them, but there’s no doubt he’s a Heisman candidate.”
Recently, Meyer has even gone as far as to compare Barrett’s ability as a leader to Tebow’s, which should only help solidify his spot in Ohio State — and perhaps college football — lore.
As for where he currently stands, some records have already been reached, others appear inevitable and some trophies could still be on their way.
Is Barrett the best quarterback in Buckeyes history? Perhaps, not yet.
But just as Meyer learned last week, he’s closer than you might think.