At Ohio State, Cautious Optimism Abounds as Season Opener Nears

By Patrick Maks on August 26, 2014 at 2:41p
33 Comments

In one swift swoop of a sentence, Urban Meyer summed up what Braxton Miller has meant to Ohio State football for the last three seasons:

“Braxton made a lot of bad plays right with his athleticism," Meyer said Tuesday during the Big Ten coaches teleconference. 

And to reiterate the obvious, life without Miller, who will miss the season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder for the second time in eight months, will be come with growing pains for Meyer and the No. 5-ranked Buckeyes.

You don't simply replace a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and Heisman candidate, after all. 

But Ohio State says it's in position to mitigate the crushing loss of its most important player. It starts with J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman quarterback who hasn't played competitive football since Oct. 2012, who is tasked with filling Miller's massive shoes. 

"We all know what's coming down the barrel at him," Meyer said of a looming season opener against Navy Saturday. "But he's handled it very well."

Added Meyer Monday: "He's a calm guy that had a very good practice today, like really good practice today, and very business like about his approach. He's not someone you have to watch to see their demeanor, because it's the same as it was two weeks ago."

Back then, Barrett was simply another name on a roster and a face in the crowd. Now, he's preparing to take command of a team that still has championship aspirations with or without the ultra-talented and important Miller. 

Optimism surrounding Barrett, who Meyer called a "meticulous" fellow that reminds him of former backup quarterback and fan-favorite Kenny Guiton, abounds in Columbus.

"All his positives are really coming out right now; I saw it before the injury but I really see it right now," Meyer said. 

The things Meyer and Co. like to point to are Barrett's leadership qualities and a calm, cool, personality that might help ease an offense replacing four offensive lineman, its starting running back and top wide receiver. 

"He's not a loud guy," Meyer said. "Very confident guy, though. A lot like our previous quarterback, Kenny. They kind of migrate, to him."

Senior tight end and captain Jeff Heuerman said Wednesday: "You guys don’t know J.T. very well, but he’s kind of a quiet-spoken guy but when he gets in that huddle, he takes control of it.

"Like I said, he does everything right and when someone does everything right, that’s who you look up to. He’s a great lead by example type of guy."

Thing is, though, none of us really know J.T. Barrett very well.

He's never played a game of college football. So it's hard to definitively say how he'll perform when it matters against the Midshipmen and every Saturday from here on out.

Confidence in his ability to steer the Buckeyes toward success is fine, but it should could come with caution. 

The expectation is that Barrett, who Meyer called a "distributor," will be able to spread the football around to an influx of talented, but unproven, playmakers on offense. 

"We’ll bounce back, it’s not the end of the world," Heuerman said of Miller's absence. "We’re not gonna forfeit any games, you’re not gonna just quit. We’ve been through adversity before, it’s just another stepping stone. We’ll get through it."

But, to be sure, so much of it hinges on Barrett regardless of the hope and positive attitudes surrounding his unexpected ascension to the most important position on the Ohio State football team. 

33 Comments

Comments

Buckeye BadDog's picture

As I have said in response to other posts, I have a feeling we are not looking at just a backup stepping in for a seasoned veteran, I think we are witnessing a changing of the guard and the beginning of a new era. Seldom do individuals as obviously talented as JT Barrett is (or else why was he the #3 QB in the 2013 recruiting class) ever take a step back after tasting the big leagues... Steve Young,Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers all come to mind, just to name a few. The pressure only makes them stronger and more fearsome.

Actually, that crucible of fire seems to have honed the quality and resilience of one Braxton Miller quite well. The fight next year for the staring spot will be something to see.

“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

+8 HS
BrutusB's picture

Matt Cassell and Curtis Painter stepped in too.

Look I'm rooting for Barrett as much as the next guy, but some fans really need to pump the brakes on the hype train before he's ever even taken a snap.

+4 HS
Buckeye BadDog's picture

Well this kind of optimism is really rare for me when it comes to the Buckeyes. I am usually a gloom & doom type when it comes to stuff like this. Like I was positive that Braxton was going to get hurt either just before or right at the start of the MSU game and there goes our season because neither of the backups would have been nearly ready for that defense or the competition of the games that follow. But now that he is out so early, and the backup are both getting quality time with the ones, something about this circumstance tells me it bodes well for us. JT will have 4 games to get his feet under him and for the O line to gel. It just "feels" like this is all part of a greater plan. If I'm wrong, then it will be no less than my gloom & doom self was worried about all along.

“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

+7 HS
N3t's picture

if brax comes back it won't be a battle.  

+5 HS
Buckeye BadDog's picture

I respectfully disagree. With an entire year under his belt JTB will not just be a talented red shirt Freshman, but a seasoned and confident Sophomore. Braxton, as much as I love him, will be a battered and battle-tested 5th year Senior sure, but rusty after sitting out more that a year. And who know if the surgery is going to take this time any better than the first. I think the competition will be great for both of them, and even better for the team as a whole, but there will be a battle - and even if Braxton recovers completely and returns to his old form I am positive that JTB will not just roll over and give up HIS starting spot.

“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

+1 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

With an entire 3 years under his belt and an additional year of studying up, it won't be a battle. It's Braxton all the way. I know what you're saying, but it won't be a battle. It may be a battle the following year between Barrett and Torrance Gibson,.

HilltopHustle's picture

Is Gibson committed? No? OK. Next question.

-1 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

It said may be didn't it? It did? Next question.

-1 HS
TURD_BUCKET's picture

Cautious optimism? Maybe, but cautious does not describe most of the OSU fans I have seen, heard, or read.

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

+8 HS
TUNBUCK89's picture

Added Meyer Monday: "He's a calm guy...

Well...You look at his face in the photo above & you have the proof: calm & collected!

SaltyD0gg's picture

I'm just glad that we're worried about stopping Navy's offense and that Khalil Mack isn't lining up across from him in his first game.

Pain of Discipline
Pain of Regret
Take Your Pick

+3 HS
Buckeye BadDog's picture

I know, right? That man was a beast last year. Almost won that game by himself. Him on a better team and we would have been toast. Barring injury he's going to have a great NFL career.

“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

+2 HS
WrightBuckeye's picture

"When he gets in that huddle, he takes control of it"

This is exactly what we need right now. We need a leader, someone who can go into the huddle and can get the best out of each player. JT isn't just an amazing athlete, he's a leader.  As we all know, we've had a lot of amazing athletes in the past at QB, but in my opinion the one thing that has been lacking at the QB position has been solid leadership skills. This will be JT's x factor. I honestly believe if he can go in there and lead this team from the get-go we will be just fine.  I am really excited for the upcoming season. I honestly believe that JT has the leadership skills to succeed. Go Bucks!

buckeye phi's picture

The most important factor here is Urban Meyer.  Look at his history with new starting quarterbacks.  Without going into detail - just think back - Smith, Leak, Tebow - just to name a few - his record is most impressive.

Cant remember where - but there's an article on the subject out there, somewhere.

J.T. Barrett will be surrounded with tremendous speed.  And even though the offensive line is still somewhat unsettled, Meyer claims that's a good thing.  He's saying those position battles are still ongoing because everybody involved is playing so well.  He doesn't seem terribly concerned.

Even with a guru like UM running the show, it may take a few games for the offense to get up to full speed.  But the defense should be much improved against the pass this year - and the defense against the run doesn't need to improve much to be very, very good.

The Buckeyes won't face an elite pass offense until they're several games into the season.

This may be a defense-led team - especially in the early going.
 

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. - Will Rogers

+2 HS
avail31678's picture

The problem is it didnt take an elite passing offense to shred us last year.  Hopefully we are new and improved now though.

+2 HS
DC-town's picture

Great article- cautious optimism...we won't know what is there until the bullets are flying with this young team. So everything sounds good now and good to be confident...don't go crazy if they're not a vision of polish and efficiency out o the gates

'Piss excellence' -RB

+2 HS
BUCKSOMIES's picture

First offensive play of the season for the Buckeyes should be a play action and go deep.  Why not?   

+3 HS
UpIrons's picture

First off, so glad to be able to comment now. Just found this awesome site recently and am proud to be a part of the community here because everyone is respectful (even some of the TTUN fans here) and that is impossible to find on other Buckeye sites. 

As for J.T. I have nothing but optimism for him. I really don't care what happens this year now and you know what? I find that rather freeing. Up until the Braxton injury I was hopeful for THIS season to be the one we've all been waiting for but I had my doubts about defense and a new offense in too, plus all the hype and pressure already being placed on the team to make the first playoff. Well, now there is no pressure. The rest of the world has already counted them out so they have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to prove! 

Let them get to proving it. If they all have the heart and want it bad enough they'll find a way. If not, then there is always next year, as usual.

Cannot wait to see the game... though I have WOW cable so I have yet to figure out how I will see the game but either way - Go Bucks!

+5 HS
buckguyfan1's picture
+1 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

If new talented QB's are going to lose a close game it is usually early. I'll worry about Navy,VT,and Cincy and see how we survive.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

ScarletNGrey01's picture

We have the best coaching staff in the country, they are highly paid, and successful people like that can game plan, strategize and they have a positive outlook ... that's one reason they are so successful.  That "said", I'd like to be a fly on the wall when they are alone behind closed doors as to what they are thinking and saying about starting a completely green QB lol.  Wish him all the success in the world of course, should be an exciting season.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Nick Saban has more to worry about with his starting QB than Urban does.

+3 HS
it'salways2002inmyhead's picture

Can't agree that we have the best coaching staff in the country. Hard to imagine how you even came up with that? The current staff has yet to win a Big Ten title, let alone a bowl game. Sure we have a great staff, but not the best.

THEreasonfortheseason

Seattle Linga's picture

That's 100% correct 43 and he has a lot more issues than his QB to be concerned about as well.

it'salways2002inmyhead's picture

We have 4, repeat 4 returning starters on offense. Alabama all of sudden recruits unworthy qb's? They got the #5 guy in '13 and the #7 guy in '14. How does Saban have more issues than Meyer? Maybe because his team plays in the SEC, that's all I can think of.

THEreasonfortheseason

Seattle Linga's picture

Saban is wound tighter than a tick and he crosses path with everyone who disagrees with him as he humiliates them in front of the entire media. One step in the wrong direction and the promised land will be taken away. Look at the way they played against OK in their bowl game. 

Yes they play in the sec however he is as snarly as they get and if the team doesn't play well against everyone this year - they will implode just like they did last year before their bowl game.

He screamed at the refs to give them JUST ONE MORE SECOND on the clock against Auburn and look what happened. Their world and season came to an end. He gets defended by the media because he bullies them and he knows he can get away with it. When he had former players come out and say they got paid when they where in college yet nothing happened to them, was it fair NOPE but the media just schrugged it off like it was no big deal.

If he doesn't win every game this year with many new faces -   we will see some of the same old crap like last year. He has more issues than we know other than his starting QB.

it'salways2002inmyhead's picture

You don't like Saban. Ok we get it. But Saban wins. He wins the SEC and he wins championships. Something WE haven't done since '02. He has less to worry about than Meyer.

THEreasonfortheseason

Seattle Linga's picture

Not once did I say that I don't like Saban - I will say he "Gets Away" with a lot more than most other coaches. 

Jabba1977's picture

Something tells me that JT will have the poise of Troy Smith in the pocket,and the athleticism of Kenny Guiton in the open field!! I hope that I am right!!

SECHATER77

buckeyepastor's picture

I think optimism is warranted, partly because Barrett isn't doing any of this alone.   I'm excited to see what Barrett does to step up to the challenge, and I'm also optimistic about what this will bring out of the others on the offense.  I am certain that OSU's offense for the last couple of years has given their all, total and all-out effort, to produce in the way that they have.  But I also think that having a guy like Miller became something like a "security blanket" for the unit.  I can't help but think that having a guy back there who week after week can make something out of nothing, who can create a big play when receivers get separation or when they don't, who can make the first one or two guys miss if someone misses an assignment, has an effect on the unit in terms of mental focus.   

As for next year, I think Urban needs to do what's best for the team.   If the offense falters this year and we have a 7-5 or 8-4 type of campaign where the pass game never really progresses, Miller likely re-takes the reins.  But if we win more than ten games, Barrett completes 60+% of his passes and develops a strong rapport and cohesion with the receivers, I think it's Barrett's job to lose.   Personally, I felt going into this year that Braxton needed to stay healthy for a full season to show the NFL he was worth spending "quarterback money" on.   After this setback, I am not sure that even a successful return in 2015 gets him to the next level as a QB.   What if he returns and steps into some other role.  Not sure how he'd feel about that.   Just thinking that a QB that arrives in the NFL already having two major shoulder surgeries and a litany of other injuries from seasons' past is a risky bet.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

it'salways2002inmyhead's picture

What the heck are you saying about Miller and the NFL? Troy Smith, you know the OSU qb that could actually throw a football didn't even make it in the NFL. But Miller?? Please.

THEreasonfortheseason

QBYBuckeye's picture

I just remember how excited I was when Herman was able to land the best QB of his class from Texas.

Now that excitement is rekindled as I anticipate watching him hone his considerable skills on the field.

My optimism is not at all cautious.  I expect him to succeed ... NO ... to excel. 

New York Buckeye

Woody16111's picture

JT Barret is a known unknown. For good or bad we will find out soon enough and he will be one of the many known knowns, good or bad.

Same can be said for the OLine & Defensive Backfield. Both are known unknowns.

At this point, none of that is a bad thing. Players/Coaches can fix a lot - even mid season and grow. The Talent at Ohio State is certainly there for that to happen. 

What is dangerous, what can sink a football team are unknown unknowns. Look at last year, I doubt anybody would have anticipated or knew that the defensive backfield was going to get shredded like it did. In general the defensive play killed the Ohio State season last year, but specifically the DB's were the nail in the coffin. 

There is a lot of talk about the QB, Oline & DB's this year, a good thing because if we know it, the coaches know. What I am worried about are the little things that can come up during the season, on and off the field, that can cost us BIG down the stretch. 

Good coaches, and we have several on staff, are ready to handle the unknown unknowns.