COLUMBUS — They don’t make many jobs like playing quarterback at Ohio State.
It’s a job where you can share the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, throw for 2,555 yards and 24 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions and get your team into the College Football Playoff but still have a sizable group of critics.
That’s where J.T. Barrett finds himself heading into his final season after putting up those numbers a year ago.
In one sense Barrett helped create this situation by setting the bar very high with a spectacular sophomore season surrounded by the best offensive cast of his career as a redshirt freshman who was promoted to the starting role after Braxton Miller’s shoulder gave out for a second time in August 2014.
He has not repeated the productivity of his first season as a starter since 2014 when he passed for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns and rushed for a career best 938 yards and 11 TDs in 12 games before an injury in the Michigan game ended his season.
While Barrett’s critics might have overreached, OSU coach Urban Meyer, quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and Barrett himself all sounded like he could be a somewhat different quarterback this season during interviews after practice on Monday.
Playing behind an inconsistent offensive line, throwing to receivers who struggled to get open and handing off to a No. 1 back in his first season as a starter, Barrett rushed the ball a career-high 205 times last season.
This year, he could be a bit more aggressive when deciding whether to throw the ball or tuck it and run.
“Last season if there was a guy draped all over my guy, it was like ‘Hey, that man is covered.’ So I’m not going to throw him the ball. Whereas now I understand sometimes that’s as much as they’re going to get,” Barrett said.
“If there is a guy hanging on his arm and it’s third and 10 and that’s as open as he’s going to get you’ve got to do your best to give him the chance to make the catch. I didn’t think like that.”
Meyer said that Barrett has also improved his accuracy this season, which was another criticism that was made about him, especially on deep throws last season.
“His accuracy and his energy level right now is incredible,” Meyer said. “He’s got complete ownership of everything going on in that offense right now. The thing he’s most improved at right now is accuracy. He’s a very accurate player right now.
“He has a more experienced offensive line, a more experienced second-year running back. Last year was a lot of firsts,” Meyer said.
Day, a former San Francisco 49ers assistant, said, “I’m proud of his command of the offense and his quick decision making. The ball is coming out of his hand quickly. He’s confident in what he’s doing. His
eyes are right so the ball is coming out at the right time. You can tell he has a rhythm about him as he’s playing the position. He’s been there before.”
The hope is that he and Ohio State get back to where they were in 2014.
Offensive line update: There appears to be a leader in the competition to be OSU’s starting right guard but Meyer is not ready to announce him.
Right guard is the only position on the Buckeyes’ offensive line not manned by a returning starter.
Malcolm Pridgeon, Branden Bowen, Demetrius Knox and Matt Burrell are battling for that starting position.
When Meyer was asked on Monday if any of them had gotten more practice time with the first team than the rest, he said, “Yeah, but I’m not going to get into that now. We’re starting to get it solidified. I’ll probably give you something this weekend. We’ll see how it goes.”
That didn’t take long: Asked if he would say how long suspended defensive lineman Mike Hill could be out of uniform, Meyer said, “No.”
Valuable experience: Looking at having seven starters who are fifth-year seniors, Meyer said, “You can’t put a price tag on that.”
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had that. We usually don’t redshirt guys with the intent that they’ll be here five years nowdays. It’s very unusual,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.