Differences Between Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett Are Obvious, But Ohio State's Offense is Rolling Again

By Patrick Maks on October 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm
After initial growing pains, Ohio State's offense is rolling again with J.T. Barrett at the helm.

The evolution of Ohio State’s offense under Urban Meyer can be described as one that began with a deep dependency on its best player to a unit that’s now flourishing without him two years later.

In its ability to overcome the loss of star quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes look like the up-tempo, spread-the-ball outfit they’ve long talked of being since Meyer took the program over in 2012. “We’re still running the same plays, we’re still getting to the same concepts,” senior wide receiver Evan Spencer said.

But it's hard to ignore the obvious contrast between Miller, the dynamic Heisman Trophy contender, and redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who Meyer calls a "distributor."

“I mean, they’re different players," Spencer said. 

No kidding.

"Braxton gave us the wow factor," Meyer said Monday. "J.T., that’s not part of his game, he’s a move-the-chains quarterback."

But for an Ohio State team that’s starting to roll thanks to blossoming playmakers around the quarterback, the Buckeyes don’t need Barrett to be Miller or for him to make the same types of spectacular, jaw-dropping plays. 

“Braxton’s incredibly elusive and is incredible with the ball in his hands in space. I think — from the time I’ve gotten here — I’ve never met a person that can tackle Braxton one-on-one in the open field,” Spencer said.

“But at the same time, J.T.’s an incredible leader, he’s incredible at knowing where the ball’s gotta go and when to put it there and using his strengths and using the things that he he knows that he has to do to his benefit. And we’ve really prospered from that.”

Since a loss to Virginia Tech exposed Ohio State’s offensive shortcomings, the Buckeyes average 56 points and 624 total yards a game. The numbers in and of themselves are impressive, but it's the how that has Meyer beaming. 

"It’s a much different offense now than it was last year," he said.

When comparing this year's group to last year's, the results are the statistically about the same. But a basic difference in composition seems to be driving Ohio State’s success without a player as talented and as important Miller. 

A luxury of skill players on the outside, like H-backs Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, offer the Buckeyes "flexibility in perimeter run game,” Meyer said. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is burgeoning into the team’s feature running back, redshirt sophomore Michael Thomas is arguably the team’s best wide receiver and the offensive line, which was mauled against the Hokies, is significantly improved.

It's why Meyer might have his most dynamic offense since taking over in Columbus.

Back then, in his first season at the helm, Meyer said Ohio State’s offense was “Braxton Miller right, Braxton Miller left.” The Buckeyes went 12-0, but it was an inherently flawed system. Last year, Ohio State added a powerful run game to its attack behind Miller, former star running back Carlos Hyde and arguably one of the best offensive lines in school history. 

Things were going to change this season regardless, but the loss of Miller made certain the Buckeyes wouldn't have a bailout. 

Because Barrett — for as efficient and admirable as he’s been — isn’t the kind of game-changing player that Miller is. With No. 5 under center, the quarterback could be the whole offense if the situation dictated such. With Barrett, Ohio State had to make the quarterback a cog of many moving parts. 

It took some costly growing pains to get there, but the Buckeyes look all grown up lately.

"We're a young team that's getting older," Meyer said. 

And better, too. 

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