Film Study: J.T. Barrett's Role in the Buckeye Offense

By Kyle Jones on August 20, 2014 at 2:45p
J.T. Barrett under the microscope.
49 Comments

With the loss of senior quarterback Braxton Miller, the Ohio State Buckeyes didn't just lose a Heisman Trophy candidate, but the centerpiece around which the offense was built. While Miller's 82 career touchdowns leave massive shoes to fill, the Buckeyes will move forward with a new man taking snaps in 2014.

Since his freshman season of 2011, Miller has consistently been the most dangerous player with the ball in his hands for Ohio State. Head coach Urban Meyer and his staff made it a point to find ways for the Buckeye offense to get Miller the ball in open space, using his straight-ahead speed and change-of-direction to make the lives of opposing tacklers miserable.

In addition to the read-option plays Meyer is known for, he and offensive coordinator Tom Herman often called runs specifically designed for Miller to be the ball-carrier, like the outside zone sweep and the counter-trey seen in this example.

In his place, the Buckeyes appear to be handing the reins of the offense over to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who has yet to see any game action since arriving in Columbus. Although he's still waiting to take a live snap, we can still get a good idea of what his presence will mean for the OSU offensive scheme. 

After Miller suffered a knee injury in the second game of the 2013 season, the Buckeyes found themselves in a similar situation when backup Kenny Guiton was called into action for the next three weeks, which saw the Buckeyes score 170 points in that span (albeit against weak opponents). 

Although Guiton was a 5th year senior, he had only 24 career passing attempts under his belt at that point, and was only in his second year in Meyer's offense. Additionally, even though Guiton still made plays with both his arm and his legs, he didn't possess quite the same level of athleticism as Miller.

Much like Guiton, Barrett is himself a good athlete capable of making plays with his legs, as he showed in this year's Spring Game, his first action of any kind in Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes called this play, known as '13 Bash,' quite often for Barrett that day. The concept is typically a constraint play in Meyer's offense, often only called when the defense is keying on the quarterback too much. The play takes the traditional roles of a read-option and flips them, giving the quarterback an option to first hand off to the running back on a sweep or keep the ball and run the Tight Zone inside.

13 Bash 1

If the defensive end chases the running back, Barrett simply kept the ball and looked for a hole between the tackles.

13 Bash 2

With Miller's injury history and threat in the open field, the Buckeyes rarely called the play with him at QB. But with Barrett taking the snap, asking him to make one simple read and get upfield in a hurry still creates enough of a threat to keep defenses from over-playing the sweep to the running back.

But the true task at hand for Barrett will be acting as the point guard and distributor of the offense, something Mark Pantoni, OSU's director of player personnel, called out specifically yesterday:

With the Buckeye quarterback no longer the most dangerous person with the ball in space, there are a number of candidates to take the title, and it's Barrett's job to get them the ball. In a role very similar to a basketball point guard, the quarterback's main role is to set up and find the playmakers around him, giving them the best chance to succeed instead of just looking to score himself.

Although the Buckeyes are also looking to replace Carlos Hyde in the backfield, there is a stable of backs waiting for their chance to be a featured player in the OSU offense. The leading candidate has been sophomore Ezekiel Elliott for quite some time, who showed the ability to run between the tackles last season. Buckeye running backs are called on primarily to move the ball with the Tight Zone inside running play, which Elliott and backups Rod Smith and Brionte Dunn seem more than capable of handling.

To replace Miller's explosiveness on the outside though, the Buckeyes will look to Dontre Wilson, the likely starter at the 'H' (slot) receiver spot. The Buckeyes like to move Wilson all over the field with motions and formation tweaks, looking to get him the ball quickly with designed sweeps, option pitches, and quick passes.

When lined up or motioned into the backfield, Wilson is often matched up with a linebacker or defensive linemen, a matchup that immediately favors OSU.

Wilson Jet Sweep

Wilson will also be a threat in the wide receiver screen game, something we saw called more by the Buckeyes in 2013, and featured prominently in the Spring Game with Barrett under center. 

As noted in the past, the Buckeyes often like to call these screen passes packaged in the same play as the Tight Zone, giving the quarterback the option to hand off or pass by reading a slot defender or outside linebacker. As we see below, #43 for Penn State crashes down on the potential handoff to Hyde inside, giving Miller an easy throw to Even Spencer who already has a lead blocker.

OSU packaged screen

In addition to Wilson, the Buckeyes return senior wideouts Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, as well as host of young receivers like Mike Thomas, Jalin Marshall, and Johnnie Dixon, all of whom can contribute in the screen game. In this sense, Barrett will once again act as the distributor, called on to make a quick decision and get the ball to the most dangerous Buckeye player on the field, simply based on what the defense shows.

Barrett won't just be called on to hand off and throw screens though. As he showed last April, the young QB has received great coaching thus far in his career, displaying excellent footwork and throwing mechanics. These skills allow Meyer and his staff to expand the playbook in the passing game more than we've seen in recent years, as they look to get the ball outside quicker and lessening the burden on an otherwise young offensive line.

Barrett looked extremely comfortable in this role, here hitting Thomas perfectly in stride as the outside receiver in a double-slant concept.

By showing he's able to get the ball to the edge of the formation quickly and effectively, Barrett will keep defenses from compressing near the ball in an effort to contain the inside running game, an issue the Buckeyes often had to combat in 2013. 

While the short, horizontal passing game wasn't always there, the deep play-action pass was certainly something both Buckeye quarterbacks executed well in 2013, leaving a high bar for Barrett to reach. Miller's NFL-level arm strength allowed him complete balls to speedsters like Smith and Philly Brown by throwing deep balls over the top and allowing his receivers to out-run their defender.

Devin Smith PA TD

While Barrett showed the ability to throw strikes in the short passing game, he failed to complete any deep balls in the Spring Game. Many of his deep throws ended up as jump ball, like this one intended for Dixon. 

The question still remains as to whether Barrett possesses the arm strength needed to overthrow the deep defender, or if the Spring Game performance was due to a lack of timing with his receivers. Hopefully it's the latter, as that issue can be addressed on the practice field. Either way, we'll probably find out in the Buckeyes' first game against Navy. If Barrett shows he's able to throw over the heads of the Midshipmen safeties, the OSU passing game should develop just fine as the season goes on and #16 develops better timing with his wideouts.

In all, by no means is the 2014 season a wash with new point guard quarterback J.T. Barrett taking snaps. Meyer's staff has assembled an arsenal of weapons around him, and while the entire group is mostly young and untested, there's enough talent there to put the Buckeyes in contention for the Big Ten title and possibly more. Veteran defensive coordinators like Virginia Tech's Bud Foster and Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi will certainly do everything they can to confuse and disrupt the young signal caller, but if Barrett doesn't try to do to much and stays focused on getting the ball to the playmakers around him, this Buckeye offense is set up quite well for success in 2014.

49 Comments

Comments

DCBuckeye33's picture

This is the greatest website in the world.

GO BUCKS

+54 HS
OrangeDot3083's picture

Amen!  I feel like a insider after I visit this site.  I tell everyone that’s a buckeye fan if they don’t already know.

+6 HS
DCBuckeye33's picture

I am the same way. Although I get offended if they don't know what 11w is (there are still a few of them). "HOW DO YOU NOT FOLLOW THIS ALL DAY!?!?!" is my typical reaction

GO BUCKS

dubjayfootball90's picture

Kid is going to shine, especially in the offense. Awesome article.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+3 HS
Vinsaniti's picture

JT4 looks more than capable based on what we see here in the spring game clips. I'm only worried about the deep ball but time with coach Mick and timing will be key.

+3 HS
BuckeyeinSavannah's picture

Is the JT4 nickname official?  I hope so, I like it

+1 HS
BuckeyeVet's picture

I like JT4. But how about JT Quad?  Or JT Quattro? Or JTQ?  JT IV    OK, I'm reaching here. Hey 11W, how about a nickname contest? Carlos Hyde got his from 11W ! 

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

 

+3 HS
Vinsaniti's picture

JT4 sounds much better than RGIII

scrotieMcboogerballs's picture

yeah, 4 is bigger than 3.  Its the facts...

"Who do you think you are?!?!...I am!!"  -Pete Weber, bowling legend and dominator of the English language

BucksHave7's picture

Awesome breakdown, thank you!   It is definitely going to be a lot of fun.

BucksHave7

+1 HS
rkylet83's picture

I know that I'm supposed to be watching the QB, but the thing that jumps out to me is the defensive coverage on the receivers.  There isn't much room to throw, which is music to my ears.

+4 HS
Deadly Nuts's picture

As sad as I am from the loss of Braxton i'm still super excited to watch J.T. play.

LEBRON

+5 HS
buckeye92's picture

Great article.  Thanks 

+1 HS
gridironguy's picture

Well, it feels as if it has been awhile since we have had an accurate QB in the short to intermediate range. It sounds like he excels in this area, so it could be a nice change of pace. This will allow our best players to catch in stride and in space. I am still hopeful. #ThisAint11

"Print is dead"

+2 HS
Buckeye BadDog's picture

I know losing Miller takes a proven threat from our offense, but I cannot help but be cautiously optimistic about a team lead by JTB. I have seen countless times in HS and college level sports - both football and basketball - that there really is such a thing as addition by subtraction. I think someone else mentioned it on this site in regard to how the presence of Shazier allowed the other LBs to not have to try as hard because they knew he would mop up anything they missed. I think it was Birm who said that the absence of Shazier may actually force Lee, Perry, Grant (et al) to step up their game. I think the same is true in this situation. Often times when a team is put into what is considered a bad or hopeless situation, they rise to the occasion. That, or they collapse utterly. So I see either 12-0 and a Big 4 birth, or 8-4 and the Outback or Alamo Bowl. The difference will be that UFM cooks his own steaks and owns his own car, and I don't think he allow this team to settle for one loss, let alone 4. This team is finally becoming Urban Myers' team... and I do not believe they will settle for anything less either.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Albert Einstein

"Nothing that comes easy is worth a dime." - Woody Hayes

TUNBUCK89's picture

I'm craving for a new training camp video !

cal3713's picture

I don't get the Joe Thomas quote by Pantoni.  Can anyone fill me in?

+3 HS
cal3713's picture

Shit.  Just put together the J.T. and Joe Thomas.  Stupid.

+4 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

hey, we don't put down our commentors like that. Be nicer to Cal3713!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

+5 HS
OSU_1992_UFM's picture

To be honest I viewed it as pretty clever. Im probably off, but I got a vibe of," This is a 11 man team, not QB5 now. JT will distribute" Basically I saw it as "Joe Thomas" being a generic name, like they don't want Barretts head to get too enamored with starting. Like I said, just my view

UFM_Renewal

immort9888's picture

I think it should be noted that Kenny Guiton didn't have the strongest arm in the world and he had the longest touchdown pass of the season to Devin Smith.  J.T. doesn't need to have a cannon.  Accuracy and timing are more important even on the long throws.  If J.T. (or Cardale, for that matter) can make the proper reads in the running game and then throw accurate passes on time, this offense could put up similar numbers to last year.  

+4 HS
SLVRBLLTS's picture

Wasn't it the longest touchdown pass in OSU history?

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Squirrel Master's picture

I'm not sure that example of his deep ball is a good one. That pass was from the otherside hash mark of the field to the far sideline. I have seen even the strongest armed QBs struggle with those throws. Plus I think, as said above, that play also shows how tight and fast our corners were playing in that game. look at all the other receivers and they were pretty well covered then too.

I agree that JT doesn't have the best deep ball but I think he can still sling it if necessary and still be productive. Play action or zone read should help JT hit his guys before they get too far out (JT did wait a while on that throw before he launched it, I think it was good coverage). I think JT has the arm that can hit a TE or WR that finds a deadspot in zone coverage, between defenders. I believe JT is better than Braxton at those throws. A few of his spring game throws were hitting a 15 yard slant in zone coverage with defenders around the area, and I don't recall any of them being in jeopardy of an INT. That is where JT will make up for the deep ball and allow receivers to get some YAC.

And they say a strong arm isn't about how far they can throw it, its how quickly they can get the ball where it needs to be in tight places.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

+1 HS
CowCat's picture

Agreed. 

Plus, this offense is not predicated on long passes.   The long pass is either a constraint play to get defenders away from the run game, or it is a "surprise!" play when teams aren't expecting it.

That is, Urban & Co. would rather get in a defense's head, run them down and spread them thin, rather than prove they can throw a 50 yard fade route with max-protect.

So, JTB will throw an occasional deep ball, but it's not our bread and butter for scoring points.  So if he doesn't throw INTs we're fine.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Citrus's picture

Great article. I made a similar point and analogy yesterday. We don't necessarily need a playmaker at QB we just need someone to play inside the offense and be smart. 

+2 HS
bigDbuck's picture

Nice write up Kyle, thanks!

+1 HS
BoFuquel's picture

Most of all we need to be ahead early, then let the front seven pin their ears back, and let the carnage ensue. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

osu407's picture

Run 13 Bash with Samuel. They will be forced to respect the hb sweep, giving us yards with Barrett everytime they do, and a touchdown with Samuel everytime they don't respect it. 

OSUCLAY519's picture

How awesome would it be to see some direct snaps to a RB or H-Back like Eze and Wilson?

+1 HS
fear_the_nut70's picture

I never got the direct snap/wildcat thing.  As soon as you do that, you announce to the whole world "dude is running.  Plus, it often takes a few seconds for the o-line to create a whole and the RB to find it.  Never a big fan, don't get it.

+3 HS
BeatTTUN's picture

I don't know if it has been mentioned yet, but having Braxton Miller available to mentor JT throughout the season is a huge advantage. In film study, understanding the "why's" of the offense and having a gameday influence is significant.

Go Buckeyes Beat Michigan

+2 HS
BuckeyeinSavannah's picture

That and he's already been there for a year.  He probably knows more than we're giving him credit.

ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

So here's a question... if we win the natty with J.T. this year, what happens next year with Braxton and J.T.?  Inquiring minds want to know... If we go all the way, then I would almost advice BM to go pro - though it's hard to say what his draft stock would be

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

porkchop's picture

I've thought about that same thing!  If J.T. has the kind of year we all think he is capable of having, then what a scenario you run into with Braxton coming back in 2015.  I know you don't cross that bridge til you get there, but can you imagine having to bench J.T. in 2015 if  after he has a great year this year when your Heisman candidate is back and healthy?  Wild.

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Here is my "supposition":

We get into the NC playoffs, and lose in either the first playoff game or either the NC game.  We have both JT and Braxton coming in next year.  In my eyes, it's an open QB competition, both will play heavily in the Spring Game and the starter can be named there, with the #2 QB given a chance to unseat him in the fall.

If this happens, WHO CARES WHO wins!?  We are LOADED AT QB and have to be considered the favorite in 2015.  Not to bad a scenario for a backup QB.... Hope my dream becomes a reality... but I would LOVE to see JT lead us to the NC this year, and really set the stage for drama in 2015.

Marc Pocock (a.k.a NuttyBuckeye)

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

+1 HS
ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

Here's some views from Mr. Trent Dilfer (Mr. "Elite 11"):

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

TURD_BUCKET's picture

The ball is going to get spread around more this year, to be sure. The opposing team will have to account for everyone but the ticket takers.
 

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

I think we'll be just fine with JT.  Losing Braxton is of course heartbreaking, but JT has a lot of talent.  I think he will do great.  I also think Cardale will see some action at some time too and will also step up big.  Nice to have some good talent at the QB position.

Go Bucks!

buckeyecountry's picture

I'm ready for some football. Open up the offense and sink Navy.

Humbuck's picture

Tom Herman has a solid history of getting QB's ready to play. Miller has been his most talented subject by far but if you go back to his days at Rice he turned a no star QB into a machine who could pick apart a defense.  His work with Guiton was impressive, Kenny was a kid who by his own admission didn't work very hard or put in the time before Meyer and Herman arrived. They got him ready to play and the rest is OSU folklore.  JT, by all accounts, has worked his tail off since he arrived.  He is more athletic than Kenny was and has been praised since arrival for his ability to grasp the concepts. If Herman has molded him for over a year chances are good he will make plays. 

He is young which presents challenges but he has been repping in practice since spring and having an elite DL in his grill the whole time. 

As much as we all love Miller, he is so gifted as an athlete he can make a bad read look great so we don't always notice his technical errors.  He had his share of negative plays due to bad reads on his part and it goes overlooked that quite a few of his shorter gains where he took big hits came when he misread or flat out ignored his reads in the run game.  His passing wasn't always crisp either, especially the shorter routes that this offense is designed to feature.  He also had a way of missing the optimal passing read, something a distributor like Guiton was better at identifying. 

This offense rewards the freakshow athletes like Miller but it can differently but equally reward the technicians with huge stat lines.  If JT can simply put the ball in stride to his receivers they're capable of huge things.  Nothing like JT getting 45 "passing" yards on a 3 yard dump to a speedster.  Herman has enough film on JT to devise a gameplan that plays to his strengths. 

This is why we pay Tom the big bucks.....

+2 HS
redcans's picture

Couldn't agree with this more. Oftentimes watching Braxton reminded me of watching Donovan McNabb (unfortunately for me I am a huge Eagles fan). Both are supreme athletes with God-given guns for arms. But I can't tell you how many times I saw McNabb throw a ball in the dirt or fail to hit a wide open guy in stride, reducing a potenial long gain into a 6-yard gain or resulting in an incomplete pass. We've seen the same from Brax. Give me an accurate arm like Brees or Brady any day of the week.

Also, let's not forget how many times Brax and that gun overthrew a wide open receiver deep. That throw Guiton made against Cal last year, referenced above, is a perfect example of a QB thowing a catchable ball and allowing his WR the chance to make a play. Don't get me wrong, losing Brax sucks and our O might take a step back (due more in part to the inexperience at OL  than the QB, IMO), but Meyer and Herman will continue to get these guys in space and hopefully JT4 will be able to fill that distributor role.  

+1 HS
Buckeyenomad's picture

The best comparison to make for an Urban Meyer offense is actually when he had Chris Leak at UF.  I know I know, bad memories (I was there), but Chris Leak was the epitome of an incredible distributor and that team had incredible weapons surrounding him to distribute to.  Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell and Cornelius Ingram etc... Barrett seems to be a better runner, and has the bulkier frame to do it, but he has a similar cast of weapons in Dontre Wilson Evan Spencer, Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman etc.  Now I'm not saying that Barrett can spin the 'skin like Leak, 'cause that is a talent rarely seen, but he does not have to. All he has to do is distribute.

hit_the_couch's picture

Since his freshman season of 2011, Miller has consistently been the most dangerous player with the ball in his hands for Ohio State. 

Actually it's the other way around: having the ball in his hands has been most dangerous for Miller as a player.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

Shangheyed's picture

Hate even thinking this but might it be that there is QB by commitee?  I hate the idea, but Cardale Jones (as I write I am mentally down voting myself) does bring a different look at 6'5" 250... they did it before at Florida...

Hate the idea but is possible.  JT just beat out Jones this past week, the competition was tough, and CJ can defenitely throw the ball deep...where it seems Barrett has had some issue.

Just gotta believe no matter how the ball bounces, as Meyer said, "Pick up the Rifle" and full steam ahead.

cinserious's picture

Anybody looking for a J.T. Barrett nickname? How does 'Sniper' sound?

J.T.

Barrett

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+1 HS
OSUFlash's picture

The Senator lives; Joseph Thomas Barrett.

osuflash

Buckeye46's picture

To really stretch a defense you not only have to throw the long passes, you have to complete them. I could be off here but I don't remember that many that were completed. Braxton's inaccuracy on the short routes allowed the defense to put more stress on covering the deep ones.

Buckeye46

mrinder83's picture

first of all, I suggest if you are not following tornadomanatwork on youtube....you should be.  He has tons of full ohio state games on his page.  Just the other day even before millers injury happened, I was watching Guitons game against Cal.  I love Miller, but that game shows how much better Guiton was at reading defenses in the passing game.  If you don't want to watch the whole game that's fine, you don't need to go far, just through ohio states first touchdown to see my point of this response.  They were pinned with in their 5 yard line and the first play was a receiver screen for like 5-6 yards.  It was a good call, but what it set up was even better.  On the next play they ran the same call, with the inside slot receiver running the screen route, the corner jumped the route to try and stay in front of the outside receiver from blocking him, but the outside receiver never tried to block him, devin smith just ran right by him and guiton hit the 90 yard touchdown.

The point is, I am not concerned as of now about arm strength going down the field.  If this kid can successfully establish the read zone running game with the short/intermediate passing game then we will be fine with deep throws.  Once the secondary has to pay too much attention what is going on underneath them with the shorter passing and the running game, that is when we use our receivers speed to kill them deep.  Who knows maybe we can run a little more of the complex running plays like the triple option that meyer used at florida that we really have not seen much as, and this might even be a better offense then anything he has yet in columbus

mrinder

+1 HS
73buckeye's picture

I gotta believe opposing teams spent an inordinate amount of time looking at ways to stop Braxton Miller, since he alone  accounted for the majority of OSU's offense. Now, if Barrett can distribute as hoped, they will have much more to prepare for. A more diverse offense with multiple options and the speed that this team has at all offensive positions should be a nightmare for defensive coordinators. Of course this assumes the offensive line develops. the offensive line is the key. Without that, even Braxton himself couldn't succeed. 

ernie

+1 HS