COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer isn’t making a change at quarterback, and it’s fair to assume Ohio State doesn’t have enough evidence to merit such a move.
But now is the time to figure out whether J.T. Barrett should stay as the clear-cut, permanent-inked starter that he’s been for the last two seasons.
Joe Burrow has played only when the pressure was off late in games? If his broken hand is healed and allows it, give the sophomore a chance when the heat is on to see if he can deliver the same kind of positive results.
Dwayne Haskins is turning heads in practice but hasn’t taken a real snap in a game? Give him one and find out what exactly that big arm can do.
The Buckeyes know what they have in Barrett. He’s an award-winning, record-setting passer and one of the finest leaders in the history of Ohio State. Supplanting him as the first-team quarterback would be no small feat, and odds are his job for the rest of his senior season is going to remain secure.
But in the midst of a slump that effectively stretches over five games, it certainly seems like it would be in Meyer’s best interests to remove any doubt.
“Sure, we would like to do that anyway,” Meyer said. “[The chance] hasn’t presented itself yet. Any decisions about any personnel is strictly who gives us the best opportunity to win, whether it be right guard, quarterback. And it’s always been the case.
“Right now, it’s not even a question. But, yeah, we’d like to absolutely get the other guys in and play a little bit.”
It’s understandable why the Buckeyes haven’t done it yet, considering the tough two-game stretch they faced to open the season. On the road against a Big Ten opponent such as Indiana, or in a one-score game against one of the nation’s best teams in Oklahoma, isn’t an ideal time to throw Haskins in to get his first experience.
But the schedule eases up considerably. No offense to Army, UNLV or even hapless Rutgers, but Ohio State’s dramatic edge in talent is going to afford some opportunities to experiment over the next three games — maybe even longer with Maryland and a struggling Nebraska defense after that.
There may actually be a case right now that Barrett could use all the reps he can get to work through some recent accuracy issues and continue to get comfortable working with new offensive assistants Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day. But a future without him in the program isn’t far away, either, and Haskins and Burrow could both put that experience to good use. Even beyond simply preparing those passers for injury or next season, though, there’s also the chance they could provide some immediate help.
Remember that historic quarterback controversy in 2015? Barrett eventually won his job back from Cardale Jones in the middle of the season after relatively even battles on the practice field, and after Meyer plugged him in the lineup as a red-zone quarterback and found an offensive spark.
Perhaps Barrett had already shown so much behind the scenes that Ohio State knew that approach would click. But there was still no way to be sure he was the guy until the Buckeyes turned him loose with the lights on and watched him perform when it mattered, right?
“The term ‘Game Ready’ is used quite often around here,” Meyer said. “That is, ‘Is Dwayne ready to help us go win a game?’ And if we feel he is then he’ll go into the game. That third quarter of Oklahoma is not the right time for that opportunity.
“At some point we’re hoping if he continues to grow up and get some game experience then you can evaluate it there.”
The Buckeyes compete for those game snaps every single day on the practice field. There’s no reason to think a team that still has legitimate national-title aspirations would shield Barrett from that sort of challenge just because of what he has produced in the past and what he means as a leader.
Those things do factor into the equation, obviously, and a larger sample size for Haskins or Burrow might not change anything. But why not test the theory, just in case?
“You think of a quarterback and it’s just throwing — it’s much more than that,” Meyer said. “It’s getting the right plays, et cetera. … Yeah, [Barrett leads] with all of the above.
“So at this point it’s still a difference.”
There’s no better opportunity than right now to decide if that’s worth the permanent ink.