Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer made things pretty clear Monday during his weekly press conference: J.T. Barrett has had his fair share of opportunities this season to earn back his job as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback.
Up until Saturday’s 38-10 win over Penn State, though, Barrett hadn’t really seized the moment.
“[Barrett] certainly had an opportunity earlier in the year and did not do it; same thing with training camp,” Meyer said. “Anyone who watched the game the last two weeks, he gets in — and I think we’re doing a good job calling things that he’s good at.
“I see the same thing that you see.”
What many saw Saturday night was an Ohio State offense that struggled a bit with Cardale Jones at quarterback flourish with Barrett behind center. It’s prompted many to wonder — again — if Meyer and his staff would consider making a change eight weeks into the season, despite the fact the Buckeyes are still undefeated at 7-0.
Meyer did not make a formal announcement regarding the situation Monday.
“I have not had a chance to sit down with the quarterbacks formally and review everything,” he said. “I’ll address that at a later date.”
Things on Saturday were especially effective in the run game as Ohio State totaled 315 yards on the ground against a very formidable Penn State defense. Barrett gained 102 of those yards and scored a pair of touchdowns while running back Ezekiel Elliott racked up 153 yards and an additional score. Barrett was particularly efficient running the read-option with Elliott — an element the Buckeyes simply don’t have when they use Jones at the quarterback spot.
Barrett had been used the previous week — a 49-28 win over Maryland — as Ohio State’s red zone quarterback after the Buckeyes rated statistically as one of the worst teams in the country in that department through the first five weeks of the season. Ohio State was 6 for 6 in the red zone against the Terrapins with all six trips resulting in touchdowns.
The Buckeyes turned five of six red zone chances into touchdowns Saturday against the Nittany Lions with Barrett at the helm of all of those. But he also replaced Jones in the third quarter at quarterback when the team wasn’t inside the Penn State 20-yard line after Jones finished just 9-of-15 passing for 84 yards.
Barrett seemed to provide Ohio State with a much-needed spark.
“J.T. is J.T. to me; I don’t think anything has changed. I think he’s always been the same person since he stepped on campus Day 1,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “He’s handled his business all the same, very mature guy. Not a lot of guys come into the program and are like that. He’s just a special type of person and those are the kind of performances we expect out of him.”
Previous relief appearances didn’t go so well for Barrett, though. He was ineffective in his replacements of Jones against Hawai’i and Northern Illinois, then Jones performed adequately enough against Indiana and Maryland to somewhat quiet the chatter of a change for the time being.
But after another lackluster performance against Penn State on Saturday, talk has ramped up again in Columbus and Meyer is at least considering a move to go with Barrett as the full-time guy.
“For us, it’s more or less the offense has to be efficient,” left guard Billy Price said. “Whoever that person may be, it’s all about efficiency and making sure that we utilize and score in the red zone and take care of the ball, don’t turn it over.
“Whoever that person may be, that’s who we want in there.”
Meyer did admit he has an idea in his mind of who he’s going to go with, but he’s just not ready to publicly reveal things yet.
“I have an idea [of who will start],” Meyer said, “but I want to make sure I visit with everybody and make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
The Ohio State coach has repeatedly said he won’t make a change until Barrett “beats out” Jones and earns the job back. With two high-level players, that’s just the way things operate. And up until Saturday night, Barrett hadn’t done that in Meyer’s mind.
Barrett’s performance against Penn State, however, was his biggest statement yet.
The college football world is waiting. Again.