Braxton Miller's successor?
We soldier on with yet another installment of Bucks to the Future, the fourth overall in our series profiling the best Ohio State Buckeyes of tomorrow. Today's focus comes in the form of consensus 4-star signal caller, J.T. Barrett. Barrett was thought to be talented enough to potentially see action (well, in garbage time at the least) this coming fall, until one play changed everything his senior year. But even though the Wichita Falls, Texas product is unlikely to see the gridiron during the 2013 calendar year, that doesn't mean his impact with the team isn't already being felt.
(Grain of salt) 40 average: 4.70
J.T. Barrett's Ohio State offer didn't take long to arrive. The extremely talented dual-threat quarterback from one of the hottest regions in the country (both climate-wise and from a football talent standpoint) has drawn comparisons to former #1 overall NFL Draft pick Alex Smith since his recruiting process began more than a year ago. It was only natural to think once Urban Meyer decided to return to the ranks of coaching that Smith's former mentor would peg Barrett as a potential target
Just over two full months on the job, Urban Meyer and Tom Herman knew they'd seen enough from Barrett on tape and elected to offer the 4-star talent a full ride to play football at Ohio State. BCS conference interest wasn't new to Barrett; he'd previously received offers from Big XII passing stalwarts, Baylor and Texas Tech. He'd even been shown love from former Big XII member-turned-Big Ten newcomers, Nebraska. Getting an invitation to come to Columbus to play football for four-to-five years, however, turned notice that Barrett's skill set ranked amongst the nation's best.
Less than 24 hours after the Buckeyes had extended their offer, Les Miles and LSU would become the first SEC school to offer the quarterback. In the month that followed before Barrett would take his first trip to Columbus, Arizona, Illinois, and Kansas State would add to the options at his disposal. Three months prior, Barrett had been honored as the "best arm" at the Under Armour 2011 combines, and now he'd be spending his spring break in Columbus, getting to know a two time national champion head coach.
As great quarterbacks do though, Barrett would wind up audibling, and instead went to check out what Ohio State's campus had to offer at the end of March of 2012. The then high school junior liked was he saw:
"The coolest thing I saw would probably be the stadium," he said. "The stadium was crazy. Other than that it would be the library. I've never seen a library that was 11 stories. You go to the top of the library and you can see the whole campus, it was beautiful."
Barrett had said in the month leading up to the visit that Ohio State and LSU were amongst his leaders, and a positive experience in Columbus did nothing to change that.
Around two and a half weeks after the trip to C-bus and an up close and personal encounter with what he'd called "a family atmosphere", Barrett decided to formally become part of that family. On April 18th, just one day after his classmate Tracy Sprinkle had given his verbal commitment to Ohio State, J.T. Barrett gave his pledge to Ohio State.
The commitment felt natural for Barrett. After doing some soul searching, he knew Columbus was the right place for him:
"I felt like if I went to another school I would have been watching on TV with Ohio State winning a national championship, and I wanted to do that. So I prayed about it and the best feeling I got was from Ohio State," Barrett said. "I felt like I would have missed out on an opportunity by not going to Ohio State. With Coach Meyer and what he has going there and the history of how his teams play football, they win and they win national championships and I want to be part of that."
John Bronkhorst, a Texas high school head coach who specializes in quarterback development, caught Barrett in action live in person and had this to say about the quarterback's potential:
J.T. Barrett, much like Cody Thomas and Tyrone Swoopes, has had learn to adapt his skills and fine tune them with less around him. He has the unique ability to make the rest of the team around him better. If you can not only make your teammates better but control the environment around you, the better you can be. Barrett, I think has that quality.
Barrett went on into the summer with his commitment to the Buckeyes firm. In the latter portions of July, he made his way to the Elite 11 Finals, where he competed with 25 of the best quarterbacks in the country to be named one of the nation's 11 best. While he failed to make the cut, he did demonstrate that he belonged in the same conversation with 2013's elite under center.
Going into his senior year, Barrett had ambitious goals along with his Rider High School teammates. Anything less than winning state would likely be a disappointment. Just a few weeks into the young season, in a gritty game against Amarillo, Barrett showcased why he was thought of so highly by some of the nation's most prestigious football programs and by scouting experts nationwide:
Down 17-14 to Amarillo, the Rider quarterback started a win-or-lose drive 85 yards away with just 4:24 to play.
Fourteen plays later - with just nine ticks left on the clock - Barrett lined up in the single wing and took it in for the final yard and a 26-17 victory.
A week prior, Barrett had gone into vaunted north Texas power Denton Ryan's backyard and ended their then 25-game regular season win streak in a 21-15 victory.
Two weeks later, Barrett's senior season would take a cruel turn for the unfair. After going down in a Friday night game with an apparent knee injury, an MRI the next day would apparently reveal a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus. Barrett was apparently walking without much pain, however, and quickly sought a second opinion, refusing to believe he'd suffered the kind of nightmare injury that might shut him down for a year or more. Ohio State fans immediately began to wonder whether or not Barrett's scholarship offer might get pulled, but to Meyer's credit, the team backed him in full.
The second opinion on Barrett's knee came up slightly more optimistic: it appeared he'd only turn his ACL and meniscus. The prognosis was still bleak, but Barrett remained upbeat ($). Since the summer, Barrett had been planning on enrolling early at Ohio State to get a head start on his freshman season (and adjustment to college life). Even with the injury, it began to seem as though enrolling early would be still be in Barrett's best interest, as he'd be able to rehab his knee and have it tended to by some of the nation's preeminent sports medicine/rehabilitation specialists – and on Ohio State's dime, no less.
As planned all along, Barrett enrolled early in January, where's been taking classes and rehabbing his knee ever since. The thought is that though he won't be able to participate in any of the running conditioning, he'll still be able to lift and do throwing drills through spring ball. While Barrett's personal summer return timeline still might be a tad Pollyannaish, so far so good by all accounts in terms of his progression.
And best of all, though Barrett may not be able to get out on the practice field in full with his teammates and wow fans in April's Cincinnati Spring Game, he's continuing to pay dividends for the Buckeyes off the field:
Eat your heart out, Kerry Coombs.
Though Barrett may never have been expected to step in and play from day one with the platoon of Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton more than firmly entrenched at the top of the depth chart, Ohio State will now need to be extra cautious to make sure he's a hundred percent before exposing him to live game action.
The plan with a talent of Barrett's pedigree and Ohio State's wealth of experience at his position all along was likely to bring him along slowly, and only burn his redshirt in case of emergency. Though Meyer in the past has never shied away from letting extremely talented freshmen see the field early (even in with already established more veteran commodities ostensibly impeding them), it would have still taken outstanding circumstances (or a tremendous spring/summer) for Barrett to jump Cardale Jones in the pecking order.
None the less, Urban Meyer doesn't believe the injury woes will slow Barrett's progression one bit:
"I'm hoping he brings a little something that our quarterback position can use, and that's a grinder, a guy that's just nonstop," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "You know, the [guys like former Utah quarterback] Alex Smith -- they wake up in the morning and they're a quarterback all day long. They go to sleep and the next day they wake up again and they're a quarterback all day long.
"He's a talented guy. He had ACL surgery, so he'll be limited as far as contact, but from everything I'm hearing he'll be able to throw and do the offseason program. Not the running part of it, but I'm not worried about him doing that part of it."
It's still likely that the Buckeyes will procede slowly with the freshman, but it's nice to know that at least from a quarterbacking accumen stand point, Barrett will likely take to the program as fast as one could've possibly hoped.
Highlight Jam Session
One of These Things is Blatantly False
- J.T. Barrett is on Twitter with the username, @Jt_theQB
- Barrett accounted for over 1500 yards passing and 1600 yards rushing as a junior in high school.
- Barrett's high school coach attributed Barrett's leadership to Rider's run all the way to the state semifinals, even in his absence. He also said that had Barrett been around, they could've very conceivably won state.
- J.T. really appreciated this Secret Santa Christmas gift.