COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has long been of the opinion that the quarterback’s role in an offense is overstated by fans.
It’s been a talking point that he’s used frequently during J.T. Barrett’s time in Columbus. Barrett’s meteoric rise as a true freshman ended with a fifth-place Heisman finish and brought with it relentless hype. The next two seasons — which came under offensive coordinator Ed Warinner after the departure of Tom Herman — were less successful. During those ups and downs, however, Meyer has often contended that factors beyond Barrett’s control played big roles in the success or failure of the offense.
Following the first spring practice of 2017, Meyer went back to that thought when asked about Barrett’s place in the Ohio State offense. Citing the offensive line and receivers, he noted that Barrett didn’t receive much in the way of help last fall.
“Quarterbacks a lot of the time get far too much credit when everyone is playing well around them,” he said, “and then they get a lot of the blame (when others don’t play well).”
One area, though, featured an undeniable regression. Ohio State hasn’t thrown the deep ball nearly as well the past two seasons as it did during its College Football Playoff title run in 2014. The need to fix that is one of the first things Meyer tried to impart on new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.
Meyer sat down both of his new assistants before spring practice to show them his vision of the Ohio State offense. Most of the clips came from the 2014 season, when Barrett was at his best — but so were the wide receivers and offensive line.
“Running the football is complicated, but throwing the football is even more complicated,” Meyer said. “The first place you always start is pass protection. Obviously that was not a strength of ours last year. I just want to see more accuracy. We went back and watched our best games that we’ve had here, the offensive coordinator and myself and Ryan Day. I wanted everyone to watch (and see) this is our vision, very balanced.
“We’re not changing who we are. We have to get back to being that productive 250-250 (250 rushing yards and 250 passing yards per game). Great tempo in between plays, aggressive play-calling. The Wisconsin-Alabama-Oregon (postseason run by Ohio State to the 2014 title) were perfect examples. Michigan State in 2014. There’s plenty of other games, but I made them watch and I sat down and ran the clicker and said, ‘This is what I want it to look like.’
“The one common denominator in all those games was we hit the deep ball. It’s who we are. We’re going to pound the football at you and we’re going to go over the top. When that works, life’s pretty good offensively. When we misfire or get sacked or have a problem, that’s obviously when it doesn’t. The emphasis is going to be hitting the deep ball.”
Barrett confirmed that following Thursday’s practice. He said the deep ball was an emphasis in the first two practices and said he still needed to make improvements in that category.
In order to do that, however, Meyer believes the Buckeyes need to get better as a whole.
“There’s a lot of things he has to work on,” Meyer said. “But most importantly, let’s get better on offense.”