Urban Meyer isn’t worried about J.T. Barrett.
Ohio State’s new redshirt freshman quarterback has been thrust into a high-pressure situation as he tries to replace injured starter Braxton Miller, and Meyer said he hasn’t flinched.
“He's not someone you have to watch to see their demeanor because it's the same as it was two weeks ago,” Meyer said during his weekly press conference. “We all know what's coming down the barrel at him, but he's handled it very well.”
Barrett hasn’t been allowed to speak with the media since Miller was ruled out for the season with a torn labrum and he was thrust into the starting role, but teammates have been impressed with how he’s adapted.
“You could kind of tell from the beginning of camp that (Barrett) was trying to work on his maturity and his leadership as a young player,” senior wide receiver Evan Spencer told The Lantern. “But after Braxton went down in practice, I think he kind of realized pretty quickly, ‘All right, well, time to take a leadership role.’
“In the huddle from then on, when (Barrett) was in practice and doing stuff like that he was just making sure that he was keeping people going. If we were having a rough day, he was making sure that we’d stay up, that we’d stay motivated.”
And the offense shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to its new quarterback considering Barrett has been working with the first team since the spring. Even though Barrett was only named the backup quarterback a couple weeks ago, he and redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones have been alternating with the first and second teams while Miller was nursing back to health from his original shoulder surgery in February.
So what makes Barrett special?
Meyer said Monday that when Ohio State was recruiting Barrett, a four-star dual-threat quarterback out of Wichita Falls, Texas, the coaching staff was attracted to Barrett’s “competitive spirit.”
“He went to Elite 11 and I remember we talked to some people that were there, and his competitive spirit is something — and you can see it now, it just kept coming back to us,” Meyer said.
Barrett suffered an ACL tear during his senior season and took a redshirt last year as he watched Miller and senior Kenny Guiton take the bulk of the reps. Meyer has even noted that Barrett is “Guiton‑ish” in the way he approaches the game because he’s quiet and calm and business-like.
But it’s one thing to do it in practice, it’s a whole other situation in front of 100,000 fans.
While many don’t expect Ohio State to struggle with Navy in the season opener this weekend, there is going to be an adjustment period as Barrett gets used to the speed of the game and keeps his nerves in check.
Navy won’t be the biggest defensive front Ohio State will face this year, and it is missing a few key playmakers at linebacker from a year ago, but it still has a tough defense that was stingy with points last year and has spent the offseason hearing about how it’s going to get run over by the Buckeyes.
Meyer said one of the things that’s going to make Barrett successful is going to be his supporting cast. Meyer said Barrett would be working with at least six different receivers on Saturday.
“The biggest issue I see, or the positive we have right now,” Meyer said, “is we have a good one and two group of receivers that are just rotating out.”
There won’t be much of a learning curve for Barrett as he tries to keep the promise of a national championship season alive. Meyer also said he wouldn’t hesitate to play Jones if Barrett struggled, adding just a little bit more pressure to Barrett’s shoulders.
“It was thrust upon us pretty quickly because in my heart I thought Braxton would be ready to go,” Meyer said. “I didn't envision this. So I thought, man, this would be a really close battle for the backup spot. But J.T. is the starting quarterback, but there's not a big separation.”
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