The Buckeyes and Barrett learned that incumbent quarterback and two time Big Ten Most Valuable Player recipient Braxton Miller was out for the season on Aug. 18. The redshirt freshman instantly went from backup quarterback to the signal caller in the spotlight for what was then a Top 5 team.
“It was one of those things like, ‘man, one of our brothers went down,’” Barrett said of learning of Miller’s shoulder injury. “(You’ve) got to get your stuff together so you can be ready when your number is called.”
Barrett always knew, or at least hoped, that he would get the keys to the Ohio State offense, but that was supposed to happen in 2015. A year early, he was ready to drive.
There were certainly some growing pains, but the Wichita Falls, Texas, product has put together an impressive start to his first season of college football. Taking his first meaningful snaps since he was sidelined halfway through his senior year in high school with a knee injury, Barrett has completed 88 of 133 passes for 1,354 yards with 17 touchdowns against just five interceptions in leading the Buckeyes to a 4-1 start. He’s added 276 yards and two scores on the ground
Barrett was the first quarterback Urban Meyer recruited to Ohio State, but even the head coach was a little taken aback by the success he has had in his young career.
“J.T., I don’t want to act like I’m not surprised because I am somewhat surprised and pleased,” Meyer said. “You go back to the first game and if you said, ‘you would be this way after game five,’ I would have said I don’t see that happening for quite a while.”
Ohio State threw the ball just 15 times in their season-opener against Navy with Barrett completing 12 of those attempts for 226 yards with one interception and two touchdowns. It was a conservative approach for the young quarterback behind a new offensive line and the Midshipmen couldn’t make Ohio State pay. One week later, Virginia Tech could.
The Hokies were in Barrett’s face all game and bothered him to a 9-for-29 day and three interceptions, numbers that weren’t helped by some dropped balls in the receiving corps. The Buckeyes fell 35-21.
“I’m learning on the fly as far as defensive coverages and pressures and blitzes and things like that,” Barrett said Wednesday. “I’m pretty sure there is a lot more out there I don’t know about.”
Since that home loss to Virginia Tech Barrett has soared. In his last three games, double-digit wins over Kent State, Cincinnati and Maryland, he has completed over 75 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and one interception. He tied a single game school record with six touchdown passes against the Golden Flashes.
If the redshirt freshman keeps up this pace, admittedly a tall task as he continues his first go around in the Big Ten, more records will be coming his way. His stats through five games project to 3,250 passing yards and 41 touchdowns against 12 interceptions over a 12 game season. That would make him the third 3,000-yard passer in Ohio State history, trailing only Bobby Hoying (3,269 yards in 1995) and Joe Germaine (3,330 yards in 1998). He is on pace to shatter Troy Smith’s record of 30 passing touchdowns in a season set during his 2006 Heisman campaign and Barrett’s completion percentage of 66.2 percent would edge Smith’s record of 65.3 percent set that same year.
Barrett is the first quarterback in Ohio State history to start his career with five consecutive passing performances of 200 yards or more.
“I try not to get too greedy,” Barrett said. “What we say in the quarterback room is you can’t go broke taking a profit. So don’t try to get too greedy and take what the defense gives you.”
Barrett has been dubbed ‘The Distributor’ and so far the name fits as he has completed passes to 12 receivers. He’s certainly been aided by the talented skill players Meyer has been stockpiling since arriving in Columbus.
“He’s definitely got a lot of weapons around him to help balance it out, to help not put so much pressure on him,” senior running back Rod Smith said. “He definitely has a good supporting cast to help him execute and make plays. He’s doing a real good job at that though.
“He’s got a lot of older dudes and good weapons to help him out so he’s not taking on the world by himself.”
That assistance has helped Barrett garner some national attention. His quarterback rating of 186.3 is third in the nation. His 17 passing touchdowns are tied for 10th in the country and all but one of the players ahead of him on that list has played in at least six games.
While the country is starting to learn who he is, Barrett became a known commodity on Ohio State’s campus nearly two months ago. Since his life changed on that day in August he has been recognized around campus, a celebrity as the Buckeyes starting quarterback.
“Life has definitely changed,” he said. “I’m just a normal person playing quarterback at Ohio State. I’m not anybody special. I don’t try to be a celebrity, just a normal guy.”
Just a normal guy having an exceptional season.