COLUMBUS — On the day that Ohio State began preseason training camp in early August, quarterback J.T. Barrett said something that he knew would surprise a lot of people.
A year ago, he lost his starting quarterback job to Cardale Jones in preseason camp and didn’t get it back until the second half of the Buckeyes’ season.
With Jones gone to NFL, trying to earn a spot on the Buffalo Bills roster, it would have come as no shock to many people to hear Barrett say he was glad to be the undisputed starter this season and that he didn’t miss Jones even a little bit.
Instead, he did just the opposite and talked about how he missed Jones and said that they still talk regularly.
Barrett said he wished Jones was still around to add some humor to the quarterback meetings by “saying something crazy.” And then he turned a little more serious.
“He’s just one of the people I knew had my back,” Barrett said. “I think when you compete against somebody it’s almost like people think you don’t like them. But it wasn’t like that with me and Cardale. We helped each other out.
“It was hard for some people to realize that. They would say, ‘Are you and Cardale friends?’ and I would say, ‘Yes,’ ” Barrett said.
In 2014, Barrett went from unknown quantity back-up to being the best quarterback in the Big Ten in the span of 12 games when he became Ohio State’s starter after Braxton Miller’s season-ending shoulder injury. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,834 yards and a school season-record 34 touchdown passes.
He was among the top five or six candidates for the Heisman Trophy going into the final game of the regular season against Michigan.
But when Barrett suffered a broken ankle in the second half of the Michigan game, Jones became the starter and passed for 257 yards against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, 243 yards against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and 242 yards against Oregon when OSU won the College Football Playoff national championship.
That set up a quarterback competition no one could have envisoned when Barrett went down with his injury.
Jones came out on top in that competition to the surprise of many people. But Barrett said he wasn’t among the surprised. And he says his ankle was not an excuse.
“I was healthy. That wasn’t an issue. I was thinking too much. I think it slowed my play down. I like playing fast. I wasn’t doing that. I was trying to break down every situation,” he said.
“I would say I had nobody to blame but myself. Cardale played better than me. I wasn’t playing the way I can play. I was definitely doing some bad thinking at the start of last year.”
Jones was inconsistent early last season and Barrett finally won his job back by rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for two in a 38-10 win over Penn State in mid-October.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said, “He was not himself during training camp last year. He didn’t go through spring practice. He was battling a quarterback who won three games and a national championship. It was not his team. But he’s ready to go this year.
“It was very close but he didn’t take it. He just was not playing at the level he wanted himself to be on and I expected him to be at. It was hard because he wasn’t getting all the reps (practice repetitions),” he said.
Barrett said his goal is to be even better than he was in 2014. “You’re judged by your past but you don’t want to hang you hat on it,” he said.