Kirk's Corner: J.T.'s Rise, Michigan's Mess

Former Ohio State offensive lineman Kirk Barton checks in with his third Kirk's Corner column addressing the recent strong play of the offense, J.T. Barrett's Heisman chances and the mess at Michigan.

Former Ohio State offensive tackle Kirk Barton started four wins against Michigan in his career and also spent time on the coaching staff under Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer. He’ll check in with BSB throughout the season with his thoughts on the Buckeyes’ season.

When it comes to the football team, the open week helped a lot, I think. I think J.T. (Barrett) is settling down. You have so many young guys up front, now they’re playing like they’ve played a few games whereas the first couple of games they were nervous. Now they’re in a groove where they’re not making their first start or their first home start. They’re not as tight.

It’s that way across the whole offense. The good thing about this team right now is there’s so much depth that guys know they have to be on their game or they might not get another touch. With that depth you have at the skill positions now, guys have to be on it. They can’t lose concentration and blow an assignment because if they do that, they might not get back in.

Guys are playing better technically, too. I think that’s a big testament to Urban Meyer, Tom Herman, Ed Warinner, Zach Smith, Stan Drayton and Tim Hinton. The offensive guys are all playing much better than they did the first couple of weeks.

I think it helped that they had a good one against Kent State where they got a lot of guys in the game and guys got a little better. Then they had a really physical open week where they scrimmaged a lot, and then from there they carried over the momentum out of the open week and into the last couple of games.

LINK: Barton's Message Board Posts

They’ve had some incredible offensive performances. Against Cincinnati, with 45 first downs and 710 yards of offense, that’s unbelievable regardless of who you’re going against. You’re seeing the young guys really taking a big step forward as they get into the meatier part of the schedule.

On the offensive line, I think all the guys have been playing significantly better, especially the real young guys like Billy Price and Jacoby Boren, the guys that really didn’t play at all last year. I think a guy who has done a really great job is Darryl Baldwin. Darryl’s a guy that had to sit around and wait for four years to get significant time and his first career start, and he’s had a great year. He’s been consistent in pass blocking and good in the run game. They haven’t had to worry about the right tackle spot like people thought they were going into the season.

The thing about Darryl is he’s a kid that had to wait a long time before he had a significant impact on the team, but he never stopped improving and trying to progress. I played with guys that by their third year, if they weren’t playing, they just mailed it in the last two years and they never got better.

Darryl is a great kid and he’s got a good degree. He’s always been extremely intelligent, and he had to shift over from the D-line to O-line after Coach Meyer got here, and it took a while to work. He’d never really pass blocked before, and that’s the biggest thing when guys move over.

It’s hard to learn how to pass block. When guys come from D-line over to O-line, it’s hard to get them out of launching. When you’re a D-lineman, all you do is put your hand in the ground and go forward. You take two steps and you run into the guard or tackle or center. When you’re an offensive lineman and you have to pass block, you have to kick slide and you have to sit down and you have to wait on guys. That’s just how it is. When guys are used to going forward, they always launch and it always screwed them up in pass protection. It’s just hard on them.

I think pass blocking is the hardest thing to do in football. The movements aren’t natural, and you’re going against superior athletes. It’s really hard, especially if you’re on an island all the time. Coach Meyer mixes up his protections pretty well, but Darryl has been good. He’s been one of the solidifiers, him and (Decker) and Jacoby. He’s played really well too. Jacoby is really a sharp player who gets guys lined up and plays hard, finishes blocks. I’m proud of how he’s playing, too.

When you get in a groove like Ohio State is now, it’s good because you want to carry your momentum from week to week. A few weeks ago, Coach Meyer made a big deal about starting fast, and they have offensively each week. They don’t really give teams room to screw around.

I think that’s a testament to how the offense is maturing, and I think it’s a compliment to J.T. He’s a young player in terms of eligibility, but he doesn’t play young. He doesn’t act young. He doesn’t do foolish things. He’s really on it, and that’s something that impresses me about as much as anything. He plays like a fifth-year senior. He knows his plays, he knows his reads, he reads his coverage, he throws it to the right guy and he doesn’t get the yips for the most part.

J.T. To NY
On Twitter I said J.T. could be bound for New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Here’s the thing – it’s one of those predictions that if it actually comes true, you look like you’re brilliant. No one’s really going to take you seriously when you say that.

My thing is if you look at J.T., he’s only going to get better and the offense is only going to get better. We don’t play in the SEC so it’s not like he has to face Ole Miss’ schedule with Alabama, Auburn, LSU and the rest of that league. There aren’t defenses quite like that in the Big Ten. I think he’s going to put up big numbers when we play teams like Indiana, Rutgers and whoever.

At the end of the year, if J.T. goes up to East Lansing and they hang 35 or 40 on the Spartans and win and then at the end of the year he’s got 35 touchdown passes, rushes for a bunch of yardage, he could have a chance.

I think J.T. deserves it, and I think that’s why the kid could go to New York. I didn’t say he’s going to win the thing, I just said he could go. I know for a fact that the guys in the offensive staff room, they want a guy to be in New York every year. They want their running back or their quarterback to be in New York every year. It’s great for recruiting when they see Urban Meyer and Tom Herman sitting there in New York in their suits. It’s good stuff.

Guys are falling like flies. Ameer Abdullah and Marcus Mariota had bad weeks. Todd Gurley is a really good player, but now he faces off-the-field issues. Kenny Hill was the No. 1 guy on the board and struggled vs. Mississippi State. It’s just been a weird year, and Ohio State has at least one big game left on national TV, and if J.T. goes out and throws for four or five touchdowns, I think a statement game could land him in New York.

Blue Times In Ann Arbor
The Big Ten needs Michigan to be good because there are only three national recruiting teams in the Big Ten, which kind of kills us. Penn State, when they’re rolling, they can get kids from anywhere. So can Michigan and so can Ohio State.

The lower-rung teams in the Big Ten don’t have the financial means or the fan base who cares enough to dig in and make football good, but Michigan has as big a budget as anybody in the country and they have the donor network in the millions of dollars. They have no excuse for not being good. It’s not like they’re working with a Purdue budget and have a 50,000-seat stadium that’s empty every week. Michigan has a 100,000-seat stadium and they have Stephen Ross as their top donor. Come on. They can’t do better than 2-4?

Any program can be saved, you just need to find the savior. It’s like when you look at Auburn a couple of years ago. In Gene Chizik’s last year, they were horrible across the board and went 3-9. They can him, hire Gus Malzahn and now Auburn is a power again. You look at USC, they’re not great but they got rid of Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian has them looking better.

The biggest example of that is Alabama. They lost to Louisiana-Monroe at home my senior year. When I was in college, Bama was a very average program. They were never in contention for any BCS bowls. But then they hire Nick Saban, they threw the bank at him and look at where they’re at. They’ve won three titles.

It’s kind of like where Ohio State was. We were at a crossroads for the program after everything happened with Jim Tressel, but we were just fortunate because we had Coach Meyer sitting there. He took it over and we’ve stuck to winning.

Michigan has guys that have ties to the program like the Harbaugh brothers and Les Miles. I think Michigan has to pony up big for probably John or Jim Harbaugh. They need a name more than anything. They need someone that when they hire him will make Ohio State people nervous.

When we hired Urban Meyer, I guarantee you Michigan fans were scared to death. They get a guy from San Diego State who has never been a head coach in any type of big game, and we get a guy that owned the SEC and won two national titles. They need a splash guy just to help in fundraising, ticket sales, the whole deal. When we got Urban Meyer, there weren’t any open tickets in Ohio Stadium. That’s what Michigan needs to do. They need something to wipe away the stain of the last few years.

You’d rather beat Michigan when they’re doing well than when they aren’t. The crown jewel for the Big Ten over the last 10 years was when we beat them in 2006 when the whole world was watching the Big Ten. That was like the climax of the era for the Big Ten. The last few years, we’ve kind of sunk as Michigan has sunk.

A team captain in 2007, Kirk Barton was named an All-American that same year as a senior. After earning his MBA from Ohio State, he is a sales executive with Oswald Companies in Columbus. He works in the area of business development with a focus on property and casualty coverage. He can be reached at barton.145@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter @Kirk_Barton.

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