COLUMBUS, Ohio — As J.T. Barrett sat at the podium following Ohio State’s 31-0 defeat to Clemson in last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl, a reporter asked the Buckeyes quarterback about his plans for the future.
“It will be really hard for me to walk away when we just lost 31-0,” Barrett said.
Barrett wasn’t lying. Some of his classmates would also cite Ohio State’s crushing close to the 2016 campaign as a reason for their returns in 2017. It’s one thing to lose, but to get blown out? It’s understandable why players such as Tyquan Lewis and Chris Worley would opt to return to Columbus for their senior seasons.
Barrett officially announced his return to Ohio State days after the Fiesta Bowl, but unlike Lewis, Worley and Billy Price — fellow members of the Buckeyes’ storied 2013 class — he may not have had another choice.
Sure, Barrett could have declared for the NFL draft after four years at Ohio State and a 26-4 record as a starter. But he will never be a traditional draft prospect — Ohio State generously lists him at 6-foot-2. There would have been no guarantee he would have even been drafted. Barrett knew that, which is why a return to Columbus was a foregone conclusion.
“There were a lot of different aspects that went into it,” Barrett said of his decision. “For the NFL, the impression of me wasn’t where I wanted it to be. That was the main thing. There were definitely things out there I could enhance or improve.”
The good news for Barrett is that a retooled Buckeyes offensive staff should aid his quest for an NFL future.
Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, helped transform Sam Bradford into the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft, and Nate Sudfeld into a sixth-round selection a year ago. Meanwhile, new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day arrived in Columbus after having spent three years as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
“He knows that level,” Barrett said of Day. “And he knows what it takes in order to play at that level. Being that I want to play in the NFL, he’s giving me the tools in order to help do so.”
That, of course, is easier said than done.
Perhaps more alarming than Barrett’s lack of size is a stat line that’s steadily declined in each of the past three seasons. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, he completed 64.6 percent of his passes while averaging 9.0 yards per attempt. In 2015, those numbers slipped to 63.3 percent and 6.7 yards per attempt, and in 2016 his completion percentage dropped to 61.5.
Check out J.T. Barrett’s career stats:
Although his efficiency has slipped, Barrett has remained productive, earning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year honors twice in the last three years. His impressive trophy case, however, will only go so far when it comes to his NFL draft stock, making Day’s tutelage vital.
Although they’ve only been together for one spring, Day sees pro potential in his new pupil. He also knows that there’s work to be done.
“If you anticipate what’s going to happen as opposed to react, I think for quarterbacks that’s really important,” Day said. “When you’re anticipating and you know what the defense is doing before you actually take the ball, to me, that’s when you can really go from good to great.”
With one season left in his college career, that’s the type of leap Barrett is looking to make.