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Despite recent success, J.T. Barrett is still facing questions about Ohio State’s passing attack

Even though Ohio State’s passing attack is better off than last year, that isn’t enough for some.

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

“I am just really shocked why we keep on talking about it. How many did we complete? It’s like, ‘What’s up?’ I’m asking y’all.”

-Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett on his deep passing via Doug Lesmerises, Northeast Ohio Media Group

Can you really blame Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett if he is tired of answering questions about the Buckeye passing game? Aside from the Oklahoma game, Barrett has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this year. Over the last two games, Barrett has thrown eight touchdown passes, so there is no question the Ohio State passing attack is making strides.

The competition Ohio State has faced since the Oklahoma game hasn’t been the greatest, but it has been just what Barrett and the Buckeye wide receivers have needed to gain some confidence heading into their tougher Big Ten contests. All isn’t perfect with Ohio State’s passing game, but they are a lot better off than they were a year ago.

One reason Ohio State’s passing attack is improved is because of two guys who aren’t on the field. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day are having a lot more success than Ed Warinner and Tim Beck did last year, because they have a better understanding of how to use Barrett when it comes to throwing the football and are willing to make adjustments.

Ohio State has been completing more deep passes in practice according to Barrett, which gives them more of a reason to use it during the game. The same can’t be said of last year’s team, where they had issues with it in practice. The improvement is starting to show, and if the Buckeyes can continue to progress, they’ll be right where they want to be when it matters the most.

“Book is one of those guys we never had to worry about going hard. He’s a pleaser. He wants to do everything right. Sometimes you paralyze yourself because you overanalyze everything instead of just playing 4-to-6 (seconds).”

-Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on linebacker Dante Booker via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

After missing last season due to a knee injury suffered in the season opener against Bowling Green, expectations were high for linebacker Dante Booker. Through the first few games of the 2017 season, Booker was largely invisible on defense. Last week against Rutgers, Booker started to show some of the potential he possesses.

Against the Scarlet Knights, Booker registered two tackles for loss, and an interception in the first quarter. Head coach Urban Meyer thinks Booker might have been pressing a little too much the first few games of the year. Meyer knows the outstanding things Booker can do on the field, so the Buckeyes never lost confidence in the linebacker even though he struggled early on.

While Booker says he was affected by trying to do too much, his passion and intensity for the game has never been higher. Early on in the season Booker was frustrated with his performance, but he tried not to let it show so as not to affect his teammates. Ohio State is going to need Booker at his best, with games against Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan still on tap for the Buckeyes.

It looked like Tracy Sprinkle’s Ohio State career might end before it even had a chance to really begin. In 2014, Sprinkle was dismissed from the Ohio State football team after being arrested at the Grown and Sexy Lounge in Lorain, Ohio. After pleading no contest to a lesser charge, and passing a drug test, Meyer reinstated Sprinkle.

Even though he was welcomed back on the team, Sprinkle was on thin ice. The defensive lineman didn’t see the field during the 2014 season, but he was working hard in practice, trying to regain the trust of his teammates and coaches. Sprinkle started working his way back up the depth chart, getting some snaps in 2015 before impressing enough to be named a starter prior to the 2016 season.

Sprinkle’s time as starter didn’t last long though, as he too was injured in the season opener against Bowling Green, ending his season. At least Sprinkle knew if could come back from getting kicked off the team, he knew he could come back from the knee injury, and that is exactly what he has done.

The senior has impressed so far this season, and it’s possible the defensive tackle could have a future at the professional level. What is most impressive about Sprinkle is no matter how many times he gets knocked down, he keeps coming back stronger than before. Sprinkle’s hard work on and off the field hasn’t gone unrecognized either, as he was voted a team captain. Everything is shaping up for Sprinkle’s story at Ohio State to have a happy ending after what was a very difficult start.

“I am telling you right now, he is playing exceptional. He is at a high level, doesn’t make mistakes, he organizes things up front for all these guys. He gives Bowen and Jordan comfort to compete, because they are never not going to know what is going on.”

-Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa on center Billy Price via James Grega, Eleven Warriors

Ohio State has been one of the best rushing teams in the country so far this year, and a major reason for the success has been the play of the left side of the Buckeye offensive line, which is made up of Michael Jordan, Jamarco Jones, and Billy Price. The play of the left side is especially impressive considering over the summer Jones had his wisdom teeth removed and an appendectomy, which led to him losing 25 pounds.

The key of the offensive line is with Billy Price at center. After shifting over from guard following last season, Price is doing everything the Ohio State offense needs him to do. Price not only is playing at a high level, but he is also leading the offensive line. The confidence and strong play of Price has been contagious. If the offensive line continues to play this well, Ohio State’s running game will only improve, especially with the return of a healthy Mike Weber.

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