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. 

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