(Best pre-country music Aaron Lewis voice)
Hard to believe some kid from Texas was thrust into the fray three and a half years ago.
(Best collective hippie jam-band voice)
Spent more than I care to admit that 2014 season wondering if J.T. Barrett was enough to get Ohio State by, keeping the program afloat until Cardale Jones started taking things seriously or the return of a fully repaired/weaponized Braxton Miller.
A funny thing happened on the way to my expectations in 2014. I survived the VT upset, got through September and most of October. What I began to see was fully realized in a win at Penn State: this kid has guts. You know the rest of the story that season - a roller coaster close to the regular season, losing number 16 against the rival, and then wondering if Cardale was enough to get Ohio State by in the post-season (spoiler alert).
The months leading up to the next season was full of questions...can Ohio State repeat? Who's the QB? Will he throw? The questions continued as the season unfolded, the QB situation muddled by Barrett's off-field arrest for OVI that Halloween weekend. Looking back to the 2015 season now, I still have questions, but I'll spare them here.
By 2016, we had some answers. J.T. was fully entrenched as the starter, and guarded optimism was abound regarding the offense. The season started with a bang, things were clicking, and the Buckeyes notched a big win in Norman. A trip to Penn State in late October resulted in a loss, but Ohio State fought their way into the playoffs again despite missing the conference title game. Despite that hot start, and a mostly consistent showing throughout the season, signs that the offense could sputter were fully realized in the playoff loss to Clemson (also sparing those details).
By 2017, more answers...more optimism. The talent level of the Ohio State roster was arguably the strongest it has ever been, and the future on the recruiting trail continues to look bright. JT becomes the first 3x captain in Ohio State history, and the Buckeyes look promising in the off-season buildup to the opener against Indiana this past August. We're still reading this book, heading into the final chapter.
A quick use of the vaunted 11W search function for "Barrett record" returns nearly three pages of results, and I'm sure that's not a full measure of JT's accomplishments in Columbus - and the numerous school and conference records he now holds.
The quicker rundown (via that ol' Wikipedia):
- 3x Team captain
- CFP National Champion (2015)
- Sugar Bowl Champion (2015)
- 2x B1G Conference Champion (2014, 2017)
- 2016 Chicago Tribune Silver Award (conference MVP)
- 3x First Team All Conference (coaches and media)
- Third team AP All-American (2014)
- Thompson-Randle-El B1G Freshman of the Year (2014)
- 3x Griese (they need to change the name here) - Brees B1G Quarterback of the Year
- Offensive MVP of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl
So what does this all mean?
It means that I'll come clean and admit I thought maybe UFM should have considered a move at QB earlier this season, that I've been fully frustrated at times with Barrett's play and mistakes in key moments. It means that maybe there was merit to the "weenie arm" moniker. It means that the "distributor" tag is bullshit, and I can expect a plethora of designed QB runs out of a five receiver set. It means the RPO will be the death of me.
And so on.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the next great forum debate...
We now stand about three and half weeks away from the close of one of the most productive quarterback careers in school and conference history. From a kid thrust into that fray three years ago, who's matured and embraced his role in a manner that's far too rare in college football these days, to a warrior who will put a team on his back regardless of two fully functioning/repaired/recovered knees, to a player that could be in the twilight of his success on the field.
The program will move on. I'm excited to see Ohio State play USC...it's been too long since they last played and it should be an excellent game. I'll be appreciative of those Buckeyes who will be departing after season's end...the seniors/underclassmen declaring have had a helluva run.
But, for all the debate I've witnessed here, I'll be most verklempt watching number 16 walk off that field for the last time.
Thank you, J.T.