ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Although his critics argue that he didn't improve enough over the course of his career as a Buckeye, J.T. Barrett says he worked to get better every day during his time at Ohio State.
As he participates in this week’s East-West Shrine Game, Barrett is taking the same approach, saying he learned the value of that approach over the course of his five years as a Buckeye.
"You think about attacking the day," Barrett said Wednesday after his first three days of practices in St. Petersburg. "That’s something that we try to focus on each and every day. Attack the day, get something out of it. Just don’t come out here and just not get better. You’re out here, everybody’s out here for a reason, so you want to attack the day and get better."
Although he was a starting quarterback for the better part of four years at Ohio State, and finished his career as the school’s all-time winningest quarterback, Barrett still has plenty to work on as he looks to take his game to the NFL.
One of Barrett’s biggest points of focus this week, he says, has been working on improving his footwork, as he has spent most of the week dropping back from under center instead of taking the shotgun snaps that he took almost exclusively in Ohio State’s offense.
"You just got to work it constantly, repping it," Barrett said. "That’s something that you can’t get enough of, footwork, whether it be in the run game or pass game."
“Everybody’s out here for a reason, so you want to attack the day and get better.”– J.T. Barrett
Barrett, who has been widely regarded as the best quarterback at this year’s Shrine Game through the first three days of practice, says he felt well-prepared for this week because of his experience playing at Ohio State. While practicing in front of a horde of NFL scouts might be a new experience for many for the prospects in St. Petersburg this week, Ohio State often attracts scouts to its practices because of how much NFL talent it produces.
Barrett says the competitive energy he has seen from his teammates and coaches at the Shrine Game has been similar, too, to that which the Buckeyes brought to their practices every day.
"Practices at Ohio State were intense like this, we had scouts at practice and it was going. I think that’s the same type of practice we had here," Barrett said. "Everybody’s high-energy, high-juiced-up, high execution on both sides of the ball and I think that was what we did at Ohio State too. It’s just, now we’re just doing different schemes."
Barrett became even more prepared for his trip to the Shrine Game by spending the previous two-plus weeks training in Orlando, Fla., training with Tom Shaw, a longtime trainer of NFL draft prospects who has worked with a multitude of quarterbacks who have gone on to have success in the league, including Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott.
While trying to learn and adjust to an offensive system that is different in many ways from Urban Meyer’s in just a week’s time, Barrett says he has tried to grasp as much knowledge from his coaches this week as he can. At the same time, though, he isn’t trying to do everything differently from what he did as a Buckeye, because he wants to remain true to his strengths.
"I’m trying to showcase my skills, honestly," Barrett said. "At the end of the day, I’m going to be myself. I’m not going to try to do something that’s not me."
The primary objective for participants in the Shrine Game, as prospects for the 2018 NFL draft, is to impress scouts from professional teams over the course of the week. In that regard, the week of practices are actually considered to be more important than the game itself, as the majority of NFL scouts who have been in St. Petersburg this week will not stay for the game, instead leaving town after Thursday’s final practices of the week (with some having already left town after Wednesday’s practices).
Barrett, nonetheless, has his sights set on winning one more game in an Ohio State helmet when he and the rest of the East team – also including former Buckeyes teammates Damon Webb and Chris Worley – play in the 93rd East-West Shrine Game, which will be televised on NFL Network, on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Tropicana Field.
"At the end of the day, you’ve got to be yourself and do what you do," said Barrett, who won 38 games as Ohio State’s starting quarterback. "At Ohio State … it was almost like the scouts weren’t even there (when they attended practice), because at the end of the day, we had to prepare to go win games. And so now, kind of the same mindset. While we’re out here, there’s NFL scouts out here evaluating, which is great, but also too, on Saturday we got to go win a game."