COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s official. J.T. Barrett is returning to Ohio State for his senior season.
And in doing so, he makes the Buckeyes instant favorites to make the College Football Playoff out of the Big Ten in 2017.
Sure, that concept might seem crazy right now, just days removed from Ohio State’s 31-0 loss to Clemson in the CFP semifinal Fiesta Bowl. Especially considering that down the final stretch of the season, the Buckeyes’ biggest problem was a Barrett-led passing game that averaged 112.3 yards on a 50-percent completion rate and produced a single touchdown in their final three contests.
But make no mistake, Barrett remains one of the best players in not only the Big Ten, but the entire country.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the record books. Barrett’s name is already at the top of most Ohio State quarterbacking records and should now top nearly every Big Ten mark he’s eligible for by the end of his college career.
Other records that matter: His 26-4 career record as a starting quarterback. And don’t forget that he’s 3-0 against Michigan and has led the Buckeyes to two of the first three College Football Playoffs.
But more so than his prolific career numbers, Barrett’s presence — along with that of center Billy Price — should provide a steadying force for the OSU offense in 2017. It’s the same reason why Urban Meyer had faith in his offense this past season, despite his quarterback and center (Pat Eilflein) being just two of three returning starters from the season before.
“If you were trying to break in a new quarterback and a new center, you probably have no shot,” Meyer said last spring. “The fact that these two guys are back, we have a shot. I think we have a decent shot of being good on offense, and it’s mostly due to those two guys coming back.”
Aiding Barrett’s return will be the reported addition of Kevin Wilson as the Buckeyes’ new offensive coordinator. As the head coach of Indiana, Wilson faced Barrett twice. In his time as an opposing coach, the now-former Hoosiers head man was never shy to shower praise on Barrett, even when his passing numbers didn’t always match the hype.
“In my opinion, from afar, I think that’s the best quarterback in college football,” Wilson said after Barrett completed just 9 of his 21 attempts for 93 yards in a 38-17 win over Indiana in October. “Some of these guys have some stats, I’m not saying it because he’s in our league — I’m not a homer. When you watch that kid play — that kid and his unselfishness.”
With the addition of Wilson, as well as former NFL quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, to the Ohio State staff, it’s not a stretch to think Barrett still has room to improve entering the final year of his college career. Factor in the potential growth of a young wide receiving corps and an offensive line projected to return four starters and Ohio State could once again lay claim to one of the nation’s most prolific offenses.
“We will become a good passing team. We will,” Meyer asserted after the Fiesta Bowl. “Next year.”
Now we know who will be running the show.
But even if the Buckeyes’ passing attack doesn’t improve, Barrett’s career résumé speaks for itself. Every year in his college career, the Buckeyes have either contended for or earned a spot in the College Football Playoff.
His senior season shouldn’t be any different.