Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer would probably opt for a pencil at this point when mapping out the Buckeyes’ strategy for using J.T. Barrett as the red zone quarterback. He’s not ready to put it in pen or permanent marker just yet.
“I think so, but I’m not writing it in Sharpie yet,” Meyer said Monday during his weekly press conference when asked if Barrett will be used permanently in that role. “We’ll see how it goes.”
After Barrett had served primarily as Ohio State’s backup quarterback through the first five games of the season, the redshirt sophomore played a bit of a different role in the Buckeyes’ 49-28 win over Maryland on Saturday. Cardale Jones started the game and played the majority of the snaps, but anytime Ohio State got close to the red zone area, it was Barrett who came in as the Buckeyes’ signal caller.
Ohio State was 6-for-6 scoring touchdowns in such situations against the Terrapins, something it had struggled mightily with over the first five games.
“I thought it worked outstanding; I was really proud of both guys,” Buckeyes co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck said. “Obviously it’s not easy, but they’re both great players, great friends, great competitors and they each bring something to the table.”
Barrett was used primarily as a runner when Ohio State got close to the Maryland end zone, carrying the ball 12 times for 65 yards. The redshirt sophomore found the end zone on touchdown runs of 3, 1 and 18 yards.
Jones was effective in his role, too, as Ohio State’s guy between the 20s, completing 21 of his 28 pass attempts for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Barrett’s ability to run more efficiently, though — Meyer said Jones and Barrett are completely different runners — was the main reason the switch was made. Meyer wanted the Buckeyes’ offense to become more diverse once it got close to the opponent’s end zone.
“[Barrett] gives us that extra — Cardale can certainly run, but when you have that threat, and you saw it Saturday, you have to defend that now,” Meyer said.
Meyer reiterated the fact Barrett still hasn’t beaten Jones out to earn the right to be the full-time starter for Ohio State. But this seems to be a way for the Buckeyes to play both, and have both be effective.
“In the red zone, the windows are smaller and things happen faster,” Beck said. “You’ve gotta anticipate those, you’ve gotta put them in areas where our guys can get them and nobody else. There’s less space and less room for a receiver to work so that obviously becomes a big part of it.
“I feel like what happens is when you establish a presence to be able to have a dual-threat guy back there, sometimes it changes the coverages which now allows some single, one-on-one type things as opposed to trying to fit in tight zone windows.”
Meyer didn’t want to act off of a gut feeling and directly following the win over Maryland, he wasn’t sure if this type of two-quarterback system was something he planned to implement full-time.
On Monday, he sounded a bit more definitive about it, even though he wasn’t ready to put it down in permanent marker just yet.
“I think J.T.’s got the personality and the work ethic and respect amongst everybody in this room,” Meyer said. “That’s not saying Cardale doesn’t; Cardale works his tail off now. But that’s a good issue right now.”