Urban Meyer knew what everybody was getting ready to ask him, so he went ahead and answered the question on his own.
"I'm sure the first one will be on quarterback. So, if J.T. has a good week of practice, he'll get to start against Illinois," Meyer said Monday.
Ohio State's head coach is of course talking about J.T. Barrett, who served a one-game suspension Saturday against Minnesota for an OVI citation received early Halloween morning. Cardale Jones led the Buckeye offense to 21 points in a 28-14 victory against Minnesota, but re-inserting Barrett into the lineup is the right move.
Meyer knows it, too.
"It's never an easy call because one guy had his 11th win, 250 all-purpose yards. Started off slow and accurate on a few passes, finished fairly good," Meyer said. "Made some good plays for us and is invested in our program. It's never easy. But I think it's the right thing at this time."
It might have been the right thing all season long, but Jones started Ohio State's first seven games before yielding to the sophomore captain three weeks ago at Rutgers. The offense subsequently exploded, on an ascension as the calendar flipped to November.
“It's never easy. But I think it's the right thing at this time.”– Urban Meyer on starting J.T. Barrett at QB
"We've been kind of getting things rolling with J.T., our offense has been really productive with him especially at Rutgers and the week prior, Penn State, when he was getting thrown in there here and there," senior left tackle Taylor Decker said Monday. "We were really productive."
Barrett's five touchdowns and 324 total yards in his first start of 2015 put an end to the debate that encompassed college football headlines since the summer, until he had too much to drink and got behind a wheel of a car. Meyer punished him, but is prepared to hand him back the keys to the offense to give the Buckeyes their best chance of remaining in contention for a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff berth.
"He gives you an added element of the double option in the offense," Meyer said of Barrett. "That's a strength of his."
Barrett's lethal decision-making and execution in the read-option game makes the offense better as a whole, because teams cannot key solely on Heisman Trophy contender Ezekiel Elliott and it opens up the play-action passing game better than with Jones in the pocket.
"I think it's going to be a good thing. I feel like (Barrett's) proven himself to be a great player every time he steps on the field," H-back Jalin Marshall said. "We're looking forward to having him back with the offense."
Ohio State's offense hasn't looked the same in the last month with Jones at quarterback as opposed to Barrett, so Meyer again ending the discussion of who's starting now makes sense. It's also the reason the man who boasts a 29-game Big Ten regular season win streak and a 47-3 record at Ohio State brought it up in his opening statement Monday.
He's more of a threat than Jones. He's a leader, a captain and the better overall option at the position. He just made a mistake.
"It's a mistake made, a serious mistake by a kid that's really lived most of his life mistake free," Meyer said. "He's a kid that's human and I still have these conversations with him. You can handle when people say you're not very tall or fast enough or you don't throw far enough, but when someone challenges who you are as a person or a man, that's tough. He's probably not had that happen to him very often."
With the egregious error behind him, Barrett now gets an opportunity to be the man again for Ohio State, both running and throwing.
"J.T., as you look back, his history of the more quick hitting and a little more Braxton style," Meyer said. "It's just a much different style of offense, but we have the ability to do both."
Added Decker: "I think that's promising for our offense because our defense has been playing great. But we just need to have a complete game and I think we're getting closer and closer to that being nine units strong as Coach Meyer would always say."