COLUMBUS — The story of how Tom Herman convinced Urban Meyer to offer J.T. Barrett a scholarship without either of them seeing Barrett throw a football except on tape has been told often.
But during his weekly Monday press conference about Saturday’s game against Michigan, Meyer talked about some other quarterbacks Ohio State was recruiting before it made that offer to Barrett, a decision that has turned out pretty well.
When Meyer first took over as OSU’s coach in January 2013, he said he was “very, very interested” in two Ohio high school quarterbacks — Mitch Trubisky and Malik Zaire.
Trubisky was Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2012 and a 4-star recruit out of Mentor High School. Zaire was a 4-star recruit from Kettering Alter.
The only problem from an Ohio State standpoint was that they weren’t interested in being recruited by OSU.
“I was just here a couple of weeks and said, ‘Let’s get them down here, meet them, get them in camp.’ All of a sudden, they’re not going to come to camp, they’re going to commit somewhere else. I was just shocked by the whole scenario,” Meyer said.
Trubisky signed with North Carolina, became a first-round draft choice and is starting for the Chicago Bears as a rookie. Zaire won the starting quarterback job at Notre Dame in 2015 but a season-ending injury opened the door for Deshone Kizer and Zaire eventually transferred to Florida, where he was mostly a back-up.
“I’d like to take credit but I have to give credit to Tom Herman on that,” Meyer said about the former Ohio State offensive coordinator recommending Barrett. “Tom Herman found J.T. Obviously, he did a very good job finding him.”
Barrett was a 4-star recruit from S.H. Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Tex., who had thrown for 1,600 yards and rushed for 1,500 yards as a junior, so it was not like he was an unknown who was discovered late in the recruiting process.
If Ohio State wins on Saturday at Michigan, he will be the first Ohio State quarterback to go 4-0 against the Wolverines.
Some other thoughts from Meyer:
— Offensive line: After last Saturday’s 52-14 win over Illinois, Meyer said OSU’s offensive line was the strongest unit on the team right now.
Monday, he said maturity was the biggest factor in the line improving from last year. “Jamarco Jones and Billy Price have stabilized that and Isaiah (Prince) is a year older.
“That’s the foundation of any good offense – the offensive line,” Meyer said. “We were blessed for three or four years of having the best (offensive line) in the Big Ten and then we didn’t. And it was hard. It’s hard to create plays where that group is not the strength of your team. Right now, they are one of the strengths of our team.”
— Kicking game: After underperforming early in the season, the kickoff coverage team seems to be out of Meyer’s dog house.
He said he has seen “some real positives in the kicking game” and said Jeffrey Okudah is “playing fantastic” on kick coverage. He also singled out Justin Hilliard, Pete Werner and Okudah for making tackles inside the 20-yard line on kickoffs.
— Talking rivalry: Meyer said because he grew up in Ohio and worked at Ohio State as a graduate assistant he needed no introduction to the OSU-Michigan rivalry.
But that was not always the case about rivalries at some of the other places he has coached.
“This is one I didn’t have to get educated about. When I first went to Bowling Green people had to educate me about that rivalry (with Toledo). Then I went out to Utah. I’d always heard about that rivalry (with BYU) but I had to be educated on that,” he said.
“Then I went to Florida and there were three of them and we made the school out west the rival and that was Florida State. But there was no education necessary on this one.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.