COLUMBUS — J.T. Barrett hit a deep ball. Ohio State’s quarterback floated a pass over the secondary to a waiting receiver, about 35 or 40 yards downfield, right in the bread basket.
So everything is fixed. Start polishing that Heisman.
OK, not really. It was the first day of spring practice, and Barrett had as many sharp passes as he did shaky ones. So did the other three Buckeye quarterbacks. That’s what happens on Day 1.
It’s difficult to glean much of anything from the start of spring drills. What seemed concrete Tuesday morning could very well look drastically different today. Here’s something that won’t change: The offense belongs to Barrett.
It felt like that needed repeating one last time, because there was still some confusion as to whether there would be open competition with a fifth-year incumbent starter who basically owns every Ohio State quarterback record. The only competition will be happening behind Barrett, and it will be an intriguing one.
But Barrett is the starer. No question. Case closed.
So what’s Ohio State’s plan for making him better this spring?
“I just want to see more accuracy,” Urban Meyer said.
That quote is pulled from a longer digression about the needed general improvement of the offense. Meyer wants better pass protection, better receiver play, more aggressive play calling and a return to hitting the deep ball consistently.
He was asked several times specifically about Barrett on Tuesday, and each time he took it back to overall improvement of the entire unit. He didn’t put it all on Barrett. In fact he seemed intent on putting very little of it on Barrett. In that is a way to figure out how Meyer is viewing this spring for his quarterback.
If you wondered if this spring would include some kind of tear down of Barrett, join the club. But this doesn’t sound like there’s going to be a grand reinventing of Ohio State’s quarterback.
The offense will have tweaks because there’s a new offensive coordinator in Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach in Ryan Day. The guy orchestrating it will be the same.
Typically a player in Barrett’s position, a fifth-year senior who’s played a lot of football, would have an easier spring. But Meyer said the rules of his 2,000-rep club don’t translate to quarterback.
“J.T. is gonna get a ton of reps because there are some new concepts we put in,” Meyer said. “J.T. will be full speed ahead.”
With that, Meyer and Day must figure out how to balance the reps of backups Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell. Their fight to be the future is important, but for right now Barrett is the priority.
Watch Barrett, Burrow, Haskins and Martell throw on the first day of spring practice in the video below:
Meyer said figuring out how those reps go behind Barrett is a delicate process.
“We had a lengthy discussion, how do you split up reps?,” he said. “Tate Martell thinks he’s playing, don’t anybody tell him he’s not gonna play. Joe Burrow is one of the toughest cats, and Dwayne Haskins we still haven’t seen his ceiling yet. It’s a perfect situation, but you also have to think through and manage reps because you’re also dealing with personalities.”
The reps will be difficult to balance, but the roles are defined.
Burrow, last year’s No. 2, is still holding down that spot. Haskins and Martell are young, captivating players looking to push Burrow for that backup job.
Barrett is the starter, and always has been.
The spring will be about building up the offense around him.
“Alex Smith was my quarterback at Utah, and when he got drafted by the 49ers, they weren’t very good back then,” Meyer said. “I started getting all of this feedback that he’s a bad quarterback. He’s a bad quarterback because he was on a very bad team.
“What happens is quarterbacks a lot of time get far too much credit when everyone is playing well around them, and then they get a lot of the blame. When we’re playing well like Nebraska, J.T. is great. When the offensive line, or the receivers aren’t playing well, or maybe he wasn’t, he gets the criticism. It comes with the job description. He has a lot of things to work on, but most importantly just get better on offense.”