Tim Beck isn't afraid to admit it. Life is quite different without an imminent quarterback battle staring at him in the face.
"It's easier to come to work every day knowing who is going to be the guy. I can tell you that," Beck said last month. "And I don't have nearly as many questions to answer about who is going to be the quarterback. Obviously, that helps."
Beck took flack for Ohio State's lone loss of the 2016 season, and confessed during spring practice he needed to do a better job at making sure J.T. Barrett and the offense were ready for a team like Michigan State.
"You ask yourself, ‘did I prepare our guys well enough to go out and beat those guys?’ Probably not," Beck said. "Obviously, we didn’t beat them. I always start pointing the finger on me."
He has since moved on, just like his quarterback. Barrett is the unquestioned guy at the position for Ohio State. It made all the difference in his development this spring, even though he worked without four of his perceived top targets due to injuries.
"I think last year he put a lot of pressure on himself to be perfect," Beck said. "He was trying to come back from an injury. He was trying to be perfect, trying to live up to where he had left off."
Barrett, the 2014 Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, missed most of spring 2015 while he rehabbed a broken ankle. He lost the job out of camp to Cardale Jones, but won it back in October. Then a one-game suspension came after an OVI citation, another speed bump to Ohio State's 2015 season.
Barrett — and the offense — didn't look like its old self until the regular season finale against Michigan. He knew he was the guy at quarterback, Ed Warinner moved to the press box to assist Beck with play calling and the Buckeyes demolished Michigan, 42-13.
“This year it was more just 'what do I need to do to get better?' This year, every snap, every drill, he had that mindset. That's what impressed me most. He was on a mission.”– Tim Beck on J.T. Barrett
The situation is set to be the same come Sept. 3 when Bowling Green pays a visit to Ohio Stadium in the 2016 opener. Barrett took that in stride this spring.
"This year it was more just 'what do I need to do to get better?'" Beck said. "This year, every snap, every drill, he had that mindset. That's what impressed me most. He was on a mission."
Barrett did throw two interceptions in the spring game while working with an inexperienced bunch of pass catchers — Johnnie Dixon, Austin Mack and Parris Campbell all joined him on the Scarlet Team. Noah Brown, Corey Smith, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson all sat out the majority of the spring. Their quarterback is anxious for their return and what it will do for the offense.
"I think it was more of being able to see and play uptempo, playing fast and just being able to throw on the perimeter," Barrett said after the spring game. "I think we're able to do that and that's the thing about it. We did that without our four top guys, so once those guys get incorporated, we're going to do a lot of work this summer and when those guys get in the mix we're going to have a nice little rotation on the edge."
Barrett was under siege during the spring game, just like his counterparts Stephen Collier and Joe Burrow. That happens when two all-conference worthy players like Pat Elflein and Billy Price don't play, but Barrett isn't worried.
"I think Mike Weber and Bri'onte (Dunn) being able to run the ball, I think our offensive line with Pat and Billy in there handling the young starters on the O-line, I think it's going to be really good," Barrett said.
So while Jones is on to the NFL and Ohio State's roster underwent a significant overhaul, Barrett remains and did his best to work with what he had during spring practice to get better. It also helps knowing he has the keys to Ohio State's offense and won't have to give them up, provided he stays healthy.
"He understands the big picture of it all," Urban Meyer said.
Added Beck: "The best thing about J.T. is that he approaches every practice the way he works. He's on a mission. He practiced like he was on a mission. He played extremely confident, fast. Even in the spring game he had a couple of faux pas, a couple of interceptions, balls deflected but when he was back there throwing it he threw the ball really well. His accuracy and placement were excellent."