Cast into the spotlight 12 days before the season opener, J.T. Barrett was charged with replacing starting quarterback Braxton Miller, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, and keeping Ohio State’s championship hopes afloat.
In the end, Barrett was successful in doing so...even if it meant suffering a season-ending injury of his own in the team’s regular-season finale against Michigan.
Before that, though, Barrett combined for a school-record 45 touchdowns and 3,951 yards. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was named the Big Ten's Quarterback of the Year, Freshman of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection.
“I think it’s just crazy to think about. At the beginning of the year, myself personally, I wasn’t trying to go out there and break any records,” he said in early December.
“I wasn’t trying to play outside myself. I was just trying to put a team in the best position to win each and every week whether it be my preparation or just making plays on the field or handing the ball off or tossing it two yards, counting as a pass, whatever it may be. I was just trying to make sure at the end of the week were 1-0 and winning a game.”
Barrett seems able to do a little bit of everything and do a little bit of everything well. He wasn’t billed as a potent dual-threat quarterback, but that’s exactly what the redshirt freshman became.
Barrett is tough. Against Penn State, he willed Ohio State to a double-overtime win against Penn State while playing his a sprained MCL.
If you’re looking for one quote to sort of sum up Barrett’s transformation over the course of last season, here’s this one from head coach Urban Meyer after the Buckeyes beat Minnesota behind Barrett’s record-breaking day on a frigid afternoon in Minneapolis.
"I think you can tell the kind of trust we have in him ... We have a lot of confidence in him. Like I said, early in the season, we had no idea who he was. I had no idea this is what J.T. Barrett is. I have a very clear picture of who he is now.”
Barrett seems to define everything Meyer wants in a quarterback — tangible or intangible.
If you’re trying to find drawbacks in Barrett’s game, you’re probably going to end up doing a lot of nitpicking. In his 12 starts, he was nearly flawless until he broke his ankle against Michigan in the regular-season finale.
Because of that, the only real knock on Barrett that’s worth having an intelligent conversation is whether his recovery sets him back from competing with Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller (if Miller’s healthy) for the starting job.
In a crowded quarterback room, if the Buckeyes hitch their wagon to Jones, it’s going to be hard to climb back in contention over the summer.
Jones carries with him a tidal wave of momentum from the postseason and Barrett must create some of his own sooner than later.
Frankly, Barrett might be the most complete quarterback on Ohio State’s roster and, as such, its best option moving forward.
He doesn’t have the cannon Cardale Jones has, but he seemed more accurate. He isn’t quite the athlete Braxton Miller is, but he’s a downhill runner who sometimes carried the Buckeyes with his legs last season like Miller did for so long. Barrett’s leadership qualities should take him a long way and earn him major points with Meyer, who longs to have his quarterback be the epicenter of the offense in more ways than one.
Since his ankle surgery in early December, Barrett’s off crutches and in a walking boot. He said he should be ready by the time spring ball starts next month. Whether or not that prognosis holds up? Who knows. But it’s not like Barrett has to prove himself all over again. He already did that last year.
And if memory serves correct, he’s every bit capable and deserving of taking over Ohio State once more.