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Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett looking to improve on consistency of deep passes

The quarterback hit Curtis Samuel for a long touchdown against Nebraska. Was it a sign of bigger things to come?

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s throwing to a spot and understanding the landmarks we have. The passing game is a lot of timing and spacing. The spots on the field that he knows where he needs to get, and me placing it on the run so he can catch it and do something with it.”

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett via Bill Landis, Cleveland.com

Prior to the Nebraska game there was plenty of criticism of J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State passing game, since it hadn’t been producing like many thought it should be. There were no complaints after the lopsided win over the Cornhuskers, where Barrett completed 26 of his 38 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns. Saturday’s performance marked the first time since the season opener against Bowling Green in which Barrett threw for more than 250 yards.

Where Barrett has struggled this season in the passing game is with his accuracy on deep passes. Saturday’s 75-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel marked the first completion this year for Barrett in the middle of the field over 20 yards in the air. Even outside the numbers over 20 yards Barrett has struggled, only completing 11 of his 30 passes for 334 yards and five touchdowns. A number of Barrett’s deep passes have been underthrown, which is a big reason for his poor completion numbers. At least Barrett was able to find a little bit of a rhythm against Nebraska, which hopefully will build some confidence and momentum in the passing game for the rest of the season.

“I’m very pleased with Mike. He’s also blocking very well — not quite to the level of Zeke, but solid.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on running back Mike Weber via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

Running back Mike Weber knew he was going to have some big shoes to fill in replacing Ezekiel Elliott, but so far the redshirt freshman has held his own. What has stood out the most about Weber is how hard he is to bring down. This year Weber has 842 yards rushing, with 37% of those yards coming after contact. By comparison, last year Elliott registered 35% of his rushing yards after contact. Weber has also been strong when called upon to block. While the running back might not be quite at the level that Elliott was when it comes to blocking, he is still getting the job done.

Weber’s physical running style has a bit of a drawback though, as the running back is nursing an AC shoulder sprain. The injury isn’t bad enough to keep him off the field, but during practice he is non-contact. During the week Weber has been working with the training staff, and has been icing his injury to make sure he is as close to 100% as possible when the Buckeyes take on Maryland on Saturday. It’s only a matter of time before Weber becomes the latest Buckeye to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, which is quite an accomplishment in not only his first season as starter, but also taking over for Elliott.

“Oh yeah, K.J. is coming. Every week he’s getting better and better and better and better. So, we’re really excited about him. He’s moving up the totem pole. He’s as valuable of a wide receiver as we have right now. So, we’re excited about him.”

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith on K.J. Hill via Dave Biddle, Bucknuts.com

With the youth Ohio State has at wide receivers, the Buckeyes have needed a few players to step up, and it looks like one of those receivers is K.J. Hill. The redshirt freshman had a tremendous start to the season with a 47-yard touchdown catch against Bowling Green, but was slowed the next few weeks with a high ankle sprain. Now that he is healthy, Hill has seen his production start to increase with six catches for 100 yards over the last two games.

The work Hill has done so far has impressed wide receivers coach Zach Smith, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the redshirt freshman become more involved in the offense during the rest of the season. Now that he is recovered from his injury, Hill is becoming more comfortable in the offense, and understanding what he needs to do more. With Noah Brown and Curtis Samuel being the top receiving options for the Buckeyes so far this year, Hill gives Ohio State another weapon to lean on as the passing game looks to improve.

“I’d say for the first time last week he’s back to being a full go. He looked good, made some good plants, had some confidence on his leg. He’s available for us to go ahead and play. Now we just have to make a wise decision based on what’s best for the team.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on linebacker Dante Booker via Ari Wasserman, Cleveland.com

Ohio State has a decision to make on what they should do with linebacker Dante Booker. The junior hasn’t played since the season opener against Bowling Green, in which Booker suffered an MCL sprain. Booker has been medically cleared to return to the field for the Buckeyes, but at this point of the season Urban Meyer and his coaching staff are trying to decide whether they want to redshirt Booker. Would the Buckeyes want to lose a year of Booker’s eligibility with just three regular season games, and how many ever postseason games Ohio State will be a part of?

What is making the decision so tough for Meyer and his staff is how well the linebackers have played while Booker has been injured. Booker beat out Jerome Baker and Joe Burger in camp for the starting position, but Baker has impressed while Booker has been injured. Even with Baker playing at such a high level right now, the lure of having Booker available for a possible run at another College Football Playoff title might just be too much to pass up. Either way, Meyer and company have a tough decision on their hands, with merits and drawbacks to both sides.

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