COLUMBUS — Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett let it be known he can air it out — with a downfield pass or in answering critics who question his arm strength.
In his first extensive session with the media since being named the starter Oct. 20, the usually smiling Barrett was still affable Wednesday. But he seemed annoyed by the perception that the top-ranked Buckeyes’ passing game is not as threatening with him under center compared with the stronger-armed Cardale Jones.
“It really didn’t change when Cardale was in the game and it didn’t change when I played last year,” Barrett said.
Barrett was 11-1 as a starter last season before breaking his ankle in the regular season finale against Michigan. Jones took over for the next three games and helped Ohio State win the College Football Playoff championship.
Jones started the first seven games for the Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten), who next play Nov. 7 against Minnesota.
“This year we didn’t have different plays in so Cardale could throw it farther down the field,” Barrett said. “It was our base plays. Nothing’s changed.
“I wanted to say that for a long time because I didn’t know what that’s all about. I threw deep balls the whole year.”
Both quarterbacks relied heavily last season on wide receiver Devin Smith, who is now with the New York Jets. Barrett had four touchdowns passes of at least 30 yards to Smith.
Still, Barrett (6-2, 225 pounds) feels because he isn’t as big as Jones, some believe he can’t sling the ball.
“Last year, when I was playing, how many deep balls did I throw to Devin?” Barrett said. “All the deep balls we had were to Devin and I threw them. But I guess since I’m not 6-5 and 250 that I didn’t have a strong arm or something. I don’t know what that was about.”
Barrett said he wasn’t aggravated but questions about his arm strength did get to him.
“I was just like, ‘Man, they’re trying to play me,’ ” he said. “I say ‘they’ meaning you all, media. I put you all as a group, I’m not pointing out individuals.
“I was just like, ‘That’s crazy to me.’ If you go back and watch film, it was just like I threw a lot of deep balls. Were some of them underthrown? Absolutely. That was earlier in the year; I got better as the year went on.
“But I was like, ‘Man, I got a weenie arm?’ Now in the offseason I was all in my head all the time lifting weights because I felt like I couldn’t throw the deep ball because you all was talking about me.”
Jones has completed 49.1 percent of 53 passes thrown 20 or more yards for 12 touchdown and two interceptions. Barrett has thrown 58 of those passes and completed 36 percent with 12 TDs and five interceptions.
Barrett does concede that while he feels his arm is strong, it can’t match that of Jones.
“The thing is when a play breaks down and somebody’s 80 yards downfield, am I going to throw it? Absolutely not,” Barrett said. “Cardale is going to throw it. I’m not going to throw that. That’s different.”
In Barrett’s first start this season against Rutgers on Saturday, he threw a 50-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas that was more run than catch, but he also hit Curtis Samuel in stride in the end zone on a 30-yard scoring strike during the 49-7 win.
Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry said Barrett brings confidence and energy, or juice, as the Buckeyes call it.
“(There’s) a boldness about him where he gets after guys,” Perry said. “He picks guys up. He’s a leader. He connects really well. He has a lot of juice and you can see it in the emotion he plays with.”
Or, when asked about the deep throws.