Urban Meyer’s decision to play only one quarterback in Ohio State’s first two games, and to stick by that quarterback even after a poor performance, isn’t solely a matter of loyalty to fifth-year senior J.T. Barrett.
Meyer says his personnel decisions are based strictly upon who gives the Buckeyes the "best opportunity to win," regardless of position. At the quarterback position, Meyer believes the player who gives Ohio State the best opportunity to win remains Barrett, even after Barrett completed just 10 of his first 21 passes for 84 yards in the Buckeyes’ 31-16 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday.
"Right now, there’s just not even a question," Meyer said in his press conference Monday. "You think of a quarterback and it's just throwing, it’s much more than that. It’s getting the right plays, etc. So at this point … there’s a difference."
Meyer wants to get his other quarterbacks into games for some playing time, potentially as soon as this Saturday, when Ohio State plays Army (4:30 p.m., Fox) – a game in which in the Buckeyes are 30.5-point favorites. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Dwayne Haskins or another Ohio State quarterback could become part of the game plan when a game is on the line. So far, though, Meyer says he hasn’t encountered a situation in which he felt it would benefit the Buckeyes to put another quarterback in the game.
"We’d like to, absolutely, put the other guys in," Meyer said. "That opportunity has not presented. Third quarter of Oklahoma is not the right time to do that."
Meyer acknowledges that Barrett has "got to play better," as does the entire team, following Saturday night’s loss. But Meyer remains confident in Barrett, and does not yet believe that playing Haskins, Joe Burrow or Tate Martell with a game on the line would make the Buckeyes better. The coach says Barrett has stood out among the quarterbacks in practice, and he does not believe the other quarterbacks are as "game ready" as Barrett is now.
“Right now, there’s just not even a question.”– Urban Meyer, on J.T. Barrett being Ohio State's best option at quarterback
Meyer was asked specifically about Haskins, a former four-star recruit who is currently listed as the second-string quarterback and has drawn comparisons to Cardale Jones, the quarterback who beat out Barrett for the starting job at the start of the 2015 season. Meyer says Haskins could play if Barrett was to be injured and he was needed, but he wants to see Haskins play in a more comfortable game situation and continue to develop before playing the redshirt freshman quarterback in a crucial game situation.
"The term 'game ready' is used quite often around here. That is Dwayne being ready to help us go win a game. And if we feel he is, then he’ll go in the game," Meyer said. "We’re hoping he continues to grow up and get some game experience, and evaluate it there."
Burrow is another candidate to see playing time at quarterback as the season progresses; the redshirt sophomore suffered a broken bone in his hand last month, but was throwing during warmups and dressed for Saturday’s game. Martell is a candidate to redshirt as a true freshman, but could see the field as well if the Buckeyes decide playing him would be to their benefit.