Ohio State's Playbook Should Blossom in Due Time, But It Hinges on More Than Just J.T. Barrett

By Patrick Maks on September 1, 2014 at 4:05p

On a scale of 1-10, Devin Smith said Ohio State's offense operated at about a "four or five" against Navy Saturday. 

"We really didn't do a whole lot passing and running," the senior wide receiver said, "but we got the job done. That's all that matters.”

Sure, its output was enough to beat the Midshipmen 34-17 in Baltimore, but it took the Buckeyes the better part of three quarters to go from ugly to effective. 

"Offensively," head coach Urban Meyer said Monday, "that was very poor the first half."

And it wasn't until Smith caught an 80-yard bomb from redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett that Ohio State broke open a tight game. 

In some ways, its slow start last weekend was expected. It was Barrett's first competitive snap since high school alongside a supporting cast full of new faces and an offensive line replacing four starters. Meyer kept the game plan simple. 

"We had nine new starters on offense, that’s not a normal transition," he said Saturday. "(When) we kind of settled in, we only ran about four or five plays in the second half."

Added Meyer: "We went into a very vanilla (mode) last week."

Naturally, though, he wants to progressively open up the playbook as Barrett, who's charged with replacing the talented and dynamic Braxton Miller, settles into his newfound role as the starting quarterback of a team with championship aspirations.  

"We'll expand a little bit ... we will keep giving him more and more," Meyer said. 
Among players and coaches, confidence abounds over Barrett's ability to soak up more complicated concepts. 

"I think we're gonna get into it very quick," Smith said. "J.T. is a smart kid, he knows where to put the ball at. As skill players, as soon as we tough the ball we make stuff happen and so I feel like it's just a matter of time until we find ourselves and really know what we can do and cannot do."

But so much of it also hinges on a new-look offensive line that Meyer called "the number one concern" right now. Barrett's certainly a critical factor, but he's only as good as his protection up front. 

"I think Barrett's part of it, the offensive line is a big part of it," Meyer said. "What can those guys do and what can they do well. We're expecting them in next couple of weeks to be able to do it all well. It's not just J.T. When we say expand the playbook, it's for J.T. and it's for the offensive line." 

And with a nighttime bout against Virginia Tech and its vaunted defense looming this weekend, Ohio State needs an offense that isn't hamstrung by one or two plays. For that to happen, Barrett has to build upon a solid outing against Navy and the offensive line needs to shape up. 

"I'm expecting that to happen rather quickly," Meyer said. "It better, or we won't win this game."

View 64 Comments