Envisioning the Ohio State Passing Game Under J.T. Barrett

By Ross Fulton on August 26, 2014 at 1:20p

The biggest question heading into the season opening kickoff against Navy is how the Ohio State offense will differ with J.T. Barrett replacing Braxton Miller. Last week I looked at how the Buckeyes will try to replace the explosive plays Miller provided. Kyle followed up with a look at Barret's role in the Ohio State offense and today, I want to examine how Ohio State's passing game may look with Barrett piloting the offense.

For starters, it will likely look a little different. In previous seasons, the Buckeyes utilized Miller's arm strength to exploit defenses over-committing against the run. Barrett does not possess Miller's arm strength. That is not a problem for routes where Barrett can put air under the football. But, as Meyer states, they will not ask Barrett to throw 20 yard corner routes.

Barrett instead looks most comfortable working intermediate routes in the the middle of the field. Meyer emphasized before Miller's injury that Ohio State would rely more upon the quick passing game this season. This becomes even more important with Barrett.  


At Florida, Meyer extensively used shallow cross and option routes. The goal was to exploit underneath linebackers and safeties i. 

Such plays have been less prevalent in Meyer and Tom Herman's first two years at Ohio State. This likely resulted from a combination of a stellar running game, an inconsistent passing game, and a lack of receivers who could consistently gain yards after the catch. Whether by design or by Miller's reads, the Buckeye passing game would revert to deep throws to keep the defense from over committing against the run.

If the spring game was any indication, however, the Buckeyes intend to emphasize the intermediate passing game this season. Last week I analyzed follow-pivot, which was perhaps the most frequently utilized concept in spring. The play is the prototypical example of creating a 2 on 1 versus an underneath player with run responsibilities . It also provides the football to a player in a position where he can gain yards after the catch.

But follow-pivot is not the only such play call. In the spring game Meyer and Herman also frequently deployed follow. As the name indicates, follow and follow-pivot work in tandem. The inside receiver runs a shallow cross. Unlike follow-pivot, however, he continues on the cross. The outside receiver runs a dig behind him. The goal is a 2 vs. 1 read against an inside linebacker. 

The play also complements H option. The threat of an inside option route away from the crosses holds the front side linebacker, creating space for the shallow to come open. 

Striking Quick

Meyer and Herman also utilized two quintessential quick game concepts – stick and double slants. Stick is simple yet effective. The tight end or slot receiver releases up the field six yards and then works outside between the hook/curl and flat defenders in the space vacated by the fly route. 

Double slants is frequently used against man or cover 2. The two slant routes again create a 2 on 1 hi-lo versus a linebacker. If the linebacker over commits to the first slant route the outside route comes open in the vacated area.

Taking a Shot

But it remains important to push the defense vertically. Such plays can be accomplished without asking Barrett to throw deep corner and outs. One such is example is three verticals. The concept aims to hit an inside receiver in the middle of the field against safeties.

That receiver executes a bender route. Versus a single high safety he will continue down the hash marks. Against two high safeties he will split them to the middle of the field. So while it is a vertical throw it is based more on timing then simply throwing deep. 

Its all about Fit

Such plays fit Barrett's strengths. He throws a nice ball and displays good touch. And as discussed last week, Meyer and Herman hope they have the skill players who can turn short completions into long gains. 

So look for such intermediate, middle of the field routes – in combination with the receiver screen game – to constitute a large percentage of the Buckeye passing game this fall. 


Comments Show All Comments

One Bad Buckeye's picture

Alright, I'll say it, I gotta get this off my chest.  More than his lack of game experience, I'm mostly concerned with JT's knee and overall durability.  I think JT is talented enough to get us through the first couple games and get comfortable enough to lead us to a pretty memorable season.  Not to mention he's had substantially more time than either Pryor or Miller had to prepare and learn the offense.  But that knee of his really scares the piss out of me.  

Can anyone who has experience with ACL injuries talk some calm into me? What is the average time frame before it's back to being sturdy again?

Does anyone know how he tore it?  Was it a Munchie Legeaux type injury?  Will he be wearing a brace on it when he plays?

Not being a doctor, the conclusion I tend to jump to is that once you tear that thing, it's more susceptible to being torn again.  Everytime he takes off running, and every time he throws under a lot of pressure....I'm gonna be thinking about that knee!  AHHHH! 

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

+1 HS
InTressITrust's picture

Tore my ACL at the end of my senior year of HS almost 6 years ago now.  

With modern surgeries in place, he should be fine.  My doctor (the doctor who does surgeries for the Carolina Panthers) told me I would never need to wear a knee brace and I have been doing great and working just like I use too.  Granted the pick up games vs College athletics is probably not an equal comparison.  

Rehab for the surgery is 6 months and he is well outside that window.  That being said though anything can happen (just look at Braxton)

"I'm not going to lie. We're anxious to be a part of a matchup like that. It's two states that love the game of football." -Jim Tressel

+3 HS
yrro's picture

Tore my ACL over a year ago. They told me at this point it should be less likely to injure than my other knee.

+2 HS
Dmac3212's picture

His ACL is fully recovered, and with modern medicine it should be just has strong if not stronger than before. Its been about 2 years so its a non issue. Many players, especially Quarterback struggle the following season after an ACL tear because they are scared to step into there balls (defenders at their feet, look at the Carson Palmer TB12 injuries). This often causes the ball to seal. Jt has been out long enough to get over those kinks and adjustment. Although he hasn't played in a meaningful game, something tells me Urban practices are pretty intense. 

+1 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

Once an ACL has been surgically repaired, it is highly unlikely that it will re-tear. In fact it typically is stronger than before. What happened to Sam Bradford is a freak occurrence.

Now that doesn't mean the other knee's ACL couldn't tear or that the same knee could have issues with the MCL or LCL, but I'm confident JT's knee injury is behind him.

anything can happen, can't worry about it. Just gotta trust that most of the time players don't hurt anything major like an ACL. Out of all the QBs in the NCAA, less than 5% have dealt with ACL tears in the past year. The odds are JT will be fine.

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

+1 HS
BUCKSOMIES's picture

Thanks Ross great stuff.  I think we will be fine at QB.

Texasbucksfan's picture

I believe an ACL takes 8-10 months, conservatively.   My daughter was a dancer and she was back dancing 9 months for her surgery.  An absolute worst case is 12 months.    I believe he tore his halfway through his senior year of high school.   That is way more than enough time.   I believe he ran many of the reps on scout team last year so they obviously felt he was sufficiently healed.     

+1 HS
OHinTN's picture

Nice breakdown!

I like the way JT read the crossing routes in the spring game.  Those can really turn into some nice gains with the speed we have at H/WR.

Firedup's picture


Do you feel that we will see more of a balance of inside vs outside runs this with more options at H position?  I think having more perimeter oriented runs would also help open up the middle for Power and Tight zone along with these crossing routes so the LBs are not just sitting in the middle. 

"Making the Great State of Ohio Proud!" UFM

Ross Fulton's picture

Yes the way I've put it is that OSU will look more like a stereotypical spread team this year rather then the inside/outside power rushing hybrid from the last two years. So you will see more screens, jet sweeps, speed options, etc. That will be then be combined with tight zone and power read.

Humbuck's picture

JT was cleared for full contact about 11 months off surgery.  He is now about 23 months off his surgery. Closing in on the magic 2 year window where statistically the odds return to a very low risk.  I'd expect to see him in some kind of a brace.  His injury was ACL full tear, MCL partial and Miniscus partial.  It wasn't anywhere close to the severity of Munchie's.  He fully tore his ACL,MCL,PCL and dislocated his kneecap. 

The AAOS (American Assoc. of Orthopedic Surgeons) provide the following statistics:  In your first year you are 15X more likely to re injure the ACL or tear the other ACL.   During months 12-24 the risk drops to 4X and after 24 months the risk factor is not any greater than a control group.

The study determined that 1.39/1000 people will have a second ACL tear in the first 24 months (either a re-tear or tear the other ACL..)  The risk of a first ACL tear is .24/1000.  The 1.39/1000 number is skewed a little by the inclusion of women in the study.  Men are significantly less likely to tear their non-injured ACL in the 24 month window. 

+3 HS
One Bad Buckeye's picture

Wow!  I actually do feel better about the situation having read your post.  Thanks for the information, I had no idea the probability was that low for a second tear in the first 24 months.  

I can't imagine the kind of pain that comes with tearing a ligament that large.  I don't want to either.  

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

OSUBias's picture

It all depends on how you year it. I tore mine,  heard a really loud pop...felt a little weird. Kept playing. Tried to pivot, the knee twisted without the stabilizing effect of the ligament, hurt like a bitch (tore my meniscus during that one). I was done at that point. 

There aren't nerve ending in the ligament itself, if I recall, so the pain is the rest of the damage you're doing. 

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Boxley's picture

Tore my minicus in a fall last winter, but the real pain was the dislocated knee cap. Emer doc popped it back in place. That was 8 months ago. some knee pain, and will always be due to my age (not a young athlete). Feel it when I over extend/bend, but then again I am not a collegiate athlete, nor anywhere close to their physical condition. Sucks getting older, but in the realm of pain and movement, at my age not bad at all.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

bignut2017's picture

My prediction for jt stats this Saturday is about 14 for 18 for 176 yards and 2tds. One to huerman and the other to breakout player mike Thomas. He runs for another 70 yards on the ground and zeke goes for 100 on the ground with no tds but Curtis Samuel had 8 carries for 99 yards and 2 tds

"Championships aren't won on Saturdays, they're won on Tuesdays in August" Kerry Coombs

-2 HS
apack614's picture

I think as long as we keep them guessing, which with all the breakout players this year is very possible. We will do just fine on offense, if the defense steps up we will do great things this year.

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

ibuck's picture

I sure hope the pass defense is better than in the spring game. I want to see PBU's (Pass Break Up) versus just tackling the guy as he catches the ball.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

apack614's picture

Agreed, it makes all the difference! All in due time though, I'm getting too worked up for Saturday haha.

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

Icouldnotgofor3's picture

These routes sound good in the short-term to get Barrett acclimated to the speed of the game but at some point this season, Barrett is going to have to go down field vertically for the home run once in awhile. Defenses may decide to cheat-in, knowing that Barrett cannot stretch them out. I hope Meyer and company will not hold him back in this area as I believe Barrett has the ability to throw the ball deep if necessary.

Saban on a cart eating cold pizza

Squirrel Master's picture

the second they think they have him, he will go over the top. Again, a strong arm doesn't mean you can throw the ball a mile. It means you can get the ball to your target quicker. JT can throw it deep, just not on a rope like Braxton.

On a zone read play action, JT could easily go over the top 30 yards and fool the backfield. He can throw it that far, just not with the zip that Braxton has. JT has plenty of arm, we will see.

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

Evansvillebuckeye's picture

Here's hoping this season brings the same success the last time #16 ran the offense.  Go Bucks!

SLVRBLLTS's picture


Awesome insight as always. I'm worried about defenses confusing a young QB and being in places he doesn't expect. Don't crossing routes and reads like that open a young QB up for more turnovers?

"Because we couldn't go for three"

+1 HS
ShawneeBuck74's picture

This was me many times last fall:

"Hermann!!! Run the slant. Please run a slant. This would be a good time to throw a slant. What's up with all these difficult deep outs? Do you know there's a middle of the field we can throw to? Throw the darn slant pass and let these guys run!"

When I watched the Spring game, it seemed like Mike Thomas caught more slant passes there than we did as a team all fall.

Obviously, I like the slant pattern...but that's mostly  because it seemed like most of the time we ran deep outs and fly patterns for Braxton.  Glad to hear we will see more intermediate routes and a quick screen game. 

You win with people. 

9 Units Strong. 


+3 HS
Woodshed's picture

I am sure most wont like to hear this, but I really don't think herman and meyer trusted miller to throw crossing routes over the middle.

I am not sure if they didn't trust his accuracy, his reads, or they thought he just didn't have the touch (100mph throws) to properly execute those throws.

I didn't think much of it in 2012, but when we continued to see the lack of those passing plays being called all year last year it became pretty evident IMO.

+1 HS
ponder10's picture

I guess I dont really understand this "lack of arm strength" comment about JT. I've watched his film and the first 3 passes were 35, 45 & 45.

He may not have the arm strength that Miller has but that should not be confused with a lack of arm strength. Barrett's arm strength is more than adequate to throw the 20 yard corner route.

In fact, I think Braxton became obsessed with his arm strength last year and his only pitch was a fastball. Again, in his video Barrett throws the ball on a line when it needed to be fit into a hole and put air under it when he needed to get the ball over a LB or CB.

Barrett may lack the athletic ability that Braxton had, but I actually think he will be able to run the "Meyer/Herman" offense better than Braxton was. I know many people got frustrated with Braxton throwing one pitch last year or missing on many of his read/option plays. I know it's a highlight film but Barrett seems to be able to make all the throws (backed up by Trent Dilfer) and he seems (at a high school level) to make better reads on when to hand off the ball or when to pull it.

I choose to be optimistic.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” ~ Baba Dioum

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

I choose to be optimistic [about JT]

Amen. I like game management a la Guiton or Krenzel.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

russbuss31's picture

I choose to be optimistic.

A positive attitude goes a long ways. I think JT will surprise a lot of doubters out there.

I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people.

Squirrel Master's picture

Please, we are talking about comparing JT to Braxton (a cannon) and Cardale (a monster of a man). Just because he might not have the same arm as those two doesn't mean he is unable to throw a ball 40 yards. Hell, I can throw it 30 without accuracy and speed. I'm pretty certain JT can throw better than me. Can we stop with the thought JT has a noodle arm. Kid can wing it!

With that said, look at those bubble screen and out passes. He puts the ball right where the receiver can get it in full stride and run with it. Braxton made the completion on those, no complaints there, but he wasn't hitting guys where they needed it all the time. JT is highly accurate in the short passing game. He will get YAC for his receivers with his passes.

I can't wait!!!!!!!!! :)

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

+1 HS
Humbuck's picture

Navy's defense is actually a great team for JT and the OL to get their feet wet against.  Navy had about a dozen sacks combined last year and lost 2 of the 3 guys with multiple sacks. They don't get much pressure on the QB.  They play base coverage, not much exotic from their secondary.  Not many TFL's and not enough speed to cover the edge and provide support in the middle.  If JT makes the right read the yards will be there for whomever has the ball.  They'll give ground to keep the ball in front of them which is just asking for our speed guys to light them up. 

It gets much harder against VaTech.  Their defense is going to be a real challenge. 

+1 HS
BuckGuy003's picture

I've never been so nervously excited for a season to start. Can't wait to see what JT has up his sleeve. Hopelessly optimistic is how I would describe buckeye nation as a whole.

UpIrons's picture

I love everything I am seeing in the videos. I honestly think this kid has more accuracy than Braxton did and this was just in Spring practice so I imagine he has improved even further after the gruelling fall camp they are coming out of now. Cannot wait to see what this kid can do. 

buckguyfan1's picture

J.T. is a top level  talent athlete. Give him a little time to grow into his new role.  He has coaching and a talented group of players supporting him. Won't be surprised when he exceeds our expectations. 

2morrow's picture

I'll believe the short passing game when it happens. For the past two years, Hermann should have been opening games during the first couple of series in each having Miller throw short, high percentage passes just to get his confidence up. I think BM would have been a far more accomplished passer (especially stat wise) than he is. UFM should have been insisting on this. Instead, early in the game,  we throw the bomb on 2nd and 4 and occasionally completed it - but it did nothing for BM confidence or to get him into some type of passing rhythm. It may have improved our receiving corp as well. I've seen a couple of the posts above about short crossing routes and think along the same lines that ANY type of HIGH PERCENTAGE SHORT route would have been preferable to the 50 yard pass downfield just because BM has a cannon. Roll him out, throw a 5-yarder to the tight end. Build his confidence. Get more players involved in the game. There have been some head scratching calls among other things that are hard to understand. I am looking forward to the season and hope the Bucks make the first playoff and go on to the NC!

+1 HS